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Jun 11, 2014 10:55 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor Resident Says His Historic House Is In Shambles Due To Construction On Watchcase Condos

Jun 11, 2014 11:37 AM

When Sag Harbor resident John Krug retired and sold his antiques business a few years ago, he envisioned a relaxing future filled with trips to the beach with his corgi, Ditto, and spending time in Sag Harbor Village’s historic Captain David Hand House, the place he has called home for more than 50 years.That all changed two and a half years ago, however, when a construction project started at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory, located across from Mr. Krug’s home on Church Street. The old factory is being restored and renovated into 64 luxury condominiums known collectively as Watchcase, complete with a pool, outdoor patio, pavilion and fitness center.

As these extravagant residences go up, Mr. Krug believes his house could soon crumble.

At the start of construction, steel piling sheets had to be vibrated into the ground for a 100-car parking garage. The vibration was so intense, Mr. Krug said, that it cracked the granite foundation of his centuries-old house and caused other problems as well: separated floorboards, cracked walls and windows, and doors that don’t align with their frames anymore. The structure also shifted forward due to the damage to the foundation.

“The house would shake like an earthquake,” said Mr. Krug, 80, who is blind. “Paintings were falling off the walls. The shaking here would go on for 15 minutes at a time.”

Mr. Krug has since filed a claim against Cape Advisors Inc., the developer of the project, asking for a total of $310,000 to cover contracting and engineering expenses to fix the damages to his house, as well as cover the cost of renting a place elsewhere in the village where he can stay until construction ceases.

David Kronman, a partner with Cape Advisors, said not only that Mr. Krug’s claim is the responsibility of Racanelli Construction Company, the project’s builder, but that the vibrations from the piling installations were not strong enough to cause the damages Mr. Krug says they did. According to a forensic engineering study conducted by Zurich, Racanelli’s insurance company, the vibrations never exceeded a peak particle velocity of 0.7 inches per second, while minimal structural damage usually occurs at a peak particle velocity of at least 2 inches per second.

“We found the claim to be excessive,” he said, adding that Cape Advisors is pushing for Racanelli to settle with Mr. Krug as soon as possible. “We were well below 2 inches per second.”

Mr. Kronman said construction is slated to be finished in the fall.

Last week, Mr. Krug received a subpoena from Zurich to appear in New York City on July 1 for a deposition, where he will have to present evidence of his damages in order to yield any settlement.

Mr. Krug said that when he initially contacted Zurich about his claim, a representative told him the house was not worth the amount he was asking for. Prior to the beginning of the Watchcase construction, the house was worth at least $1.2 million, Mr. Krug said.

“It just shows how little they know real estate out here,” said Jeffrey Bragman, a real estate attorney in East Hampton, whom Mr. Krug hired to represent him. “They’ve damaged his property. By doing nothing, they could push him into litigation.”

When reached by phone, a representative from Zurich said no one could comment on the situation.

Last summer, Mr. Krug hired an engineer to evaluate the damages to his house. Greg Llewellyn of Llewellyn Engineering in Southampton compiled his findings into a report for Mr. Krug, and he recalled the foundation being in bad shape when he last saw it. Mr. Llewellyn added that in order to preserve the house and prevent any more damage, the foundation should be replaced and the structure raised—procedures that could cost up to $120,000.

All the other damages to the house rack up the repair bill to anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000, Mr. Llewellyn added.

“The house is so old that it needs the proper foundation so it doesn’t move anymore,” he said. “If the damage has gotten any worse, it could be deemed unsafe. I’m surprised it hasn’t been taken care of yet.”

Mr. Krug has also reached out to the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board, the entity that approved the Watchcase project, but he said it has done little to help. No one from the board responded to multiple requests from The Press for comment.

The foundation of the Captain David Hand House in particular is fragile because it was built in the early 1700s, making it arguably the oldest structural element in Sag Harbor today.

The Captain David Hand House is thought to have been built in Southampton but then moved five or six times before being situated permanently on Church Street in Sag Harbor. According to old legends, three generations of Captain David Hands lived in the house, and the five wives of one of them are buried with their husband in Oakland Cemetery in the village.

Jean Held, a member of the Sag Harbor Historical Society, said that all the stories alone that are attached to the house make it a vital part of the community that needs to be preserved.

“The small Hand House itself represents living in a modest functional abode common in Sag Harbor history, and it is a stark contrast to the ‘luxury’ houses being built today,” Ms. Held said. “Should Sag Harbor lose the house ... we would lose our connection with all three Captain David Hands, who earned hero statuses in the American Revolutionary War.”

The history of the Captain David Hand House is something Mr. Krug takes great pride in. Over the years, the cozy house has been photographed for various magazines, including Better Homes and Gardens and Country Living. In clippings Mr. Krug saved, a succulent turkey covers a wooden table in the country-style kitchen, the bedroom nook shines in a ray of sunlight that beams through a nearby window, and a Christmas tree brightens up the entire living room.

But the vibrant house and rooms in those pictures no longer exist. Instead, they have been replaced by what Mr. Krug calls a depressing aura that fills every inch of the 1,000-square-foot abode, thanks to the damage brought on by the Watchcase construction.

And even though Mr. Krug wants to remain hopeful that a settlement with Zurich will be reached, he said is convinced that at this point, nothing will get done.

“The integrity of the whole house has been compromised,” he said. “I don’t have the energy or desire to keep the [repairs] up. I might just sell the house and leave before it kills me.”

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Mr Krug owns an old house that is falling apart-he's just hoping someone will pay for the repairs
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Jun 11, 14 6:32 PM
When he moved in "a few years ago", the CO would have not been granted had the current issues been noted. It's safe to say they would have been. Granite foundations don't just fall apart either.

It also seems there is ample evidence (magazines, photos, etc.) the house was in sound shape before any steel pilings were driven into the ground.
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Jun 11, 14 10:59 PM
When he moved in "a few years ago", the CO would have not been granted had the current issues been noted.

CO's aren't issued when someone buys a house.

Nope, granite foundations don't just "fall apart" but how stable are they over 300+ years?

I think the house is old, and the construction perhaps exacerbated the problem. Construction company should settle for half and be done with it.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 12, 14 10:25 AM
Re-read the article, and apparently he's been in the house for fifty years. Mea culpa.

Maybe they figure it can be dragged out, and he may pass away before the proverbial jig is up.
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Jun 12, 14 4:27 PM
That house is part of history and adds great value.....the town and the builder should be held responsible. When giving the builder permission to build and knowing that the steel support beams would be put into the ground the town should have taken his very old historical home into consideration....
By wjp4196@aol.com (1), southampton on Jun 13, 14 7:29 AM
Granite foundations fall apart all the time. The granite came to Sag Harbor as ballast from the sail boats coming in to the Wharf in the 1800's. They used these stones as foundations as a way to get rid of them and because there were so many, it was a cheap way to make foundations. These rocks were all different shapes and didn't fit tightly together. They filled these voids with mortar that doesn't stay together for 100 plus years. Today, you wouldn't even be allowed to use that mortar. I was given ...more
By EH123 (22), East Hampton on Jun 13, 14 8:19 AM
Well said, especially to the insurance company and entire project management team: "just replace the foundation and continue to show Sag Harbor that you want to work with us. You never know, you could be doing another project here and it will not be so easy for you to get the job if you don't keep people happy."

Do you want to be a good neighbor?
By PBR (4921), Southampton on Jun 13, 14 8:31 AM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser