There’s a new owner of 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road and 2 West Water Street in Sag Harbor, which muddies the waters for the Town of Southampton’s plans to purchase most of the land and transform it into the long-desired John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.
The town was working on a deal with Greystone Development, which was planning condominiums at the site, but the property changed hands to South Fork developer Jay Bialsky on Thursday, April 19, for an undisclosed amount.
“The selling price won’t be found in any deeds, because the company’s interest was sold to my client,” attorney Adam Miller said. Mr. Bialsky now has the controlling interest—or majority ownership—in the property. Mr. Miller clarified that Mr. Bialsky is willing to pick up where Greystone Development left off in selling part of the property to the town.
It also brought Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman back to the negotiating table.
“It’s almost like we are starting over with negotiations,” he said. “But it’s premature to say if this situation is truly a setback. It might be an advantage—I can’t say because negotiations aren’t done. We haven’t changed our offer, and we don’t know if [Mr. Bialsky] is going to accept it.”
It’s been a long process so far. At the request of Sag Harbor Village in 2015, the site was added to the list of properties targeted for acquisition by Southampton Town’s Community Preservation Fund, but Greystone Development wasn’t ready to sell. The village also explored the option of taking the property by eminent domain, which would require condemning the property and taking it for public use. Greystone Development would have been compensated, but that plan didn’t advance.
Meanwhile, Greystone wanted to push its way through the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board to get the condo project’s development off the ground. In 2017, the planning board completed an environmental review and the plan went on to the zoning board of appeals to consider variances for the project. It was tabled and eventually moved off the agenda in December at the request of Greystone Development. Greystone Development did not respond to requests for comment this week.
An offer Southampton made to Greystone Development to purchase the property through its Community Preservation Fund was still standing.
“The village of Sag Harbor produces a lot of CPF revenue,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “There isn’t a lot of vacant developable land in the village. So I take very seriously what the village board want—they don’t ask for a lot. If this is something the village sees as a priority, then I will continue to support it.”
Mr. Bialsky met with Mr. Schneiderman last week to discuss the sale for the first time. Greystone’s plan for 11 condominiums on 30,000 square feet of the waterfront property was still on the table. Preliminary renderings depicted a row of staggered 19th-century design, single-family houses joined by a lower-level pavilion.
Mr. Miller said Mr. Bialsky wants to reduce the number of units. If Mr. Bialsky decides to amend his plans, developing the land would take even longer. Mr. Miller said he expects the village will have something to review by June.
If Mr. Bialsky sticks to the original plan, the land would be subdivided into two parcels. The lion’s share of land—1.25 of the 1.94 acres—would be sold to the Town of Southampton for the proposed John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. The park plans were released in March 2016 by landscape architect Edmund Hollander. The water-facing park would buffer the wetlands, and include a beach, a public plaza, a children’s playground, restrooms, trails, a boat pier and parking spaces. Eelgrass and oyster beds would be restored, too.
It is unclear how much the purchase would cost the Community Preservation Fund. Mr. Schneiderman noted that the town can’t legally pay more than fair-market value.
“Once the village finalizes review of our plans, zoning, harbor committee, and planning board meetings would be planned,” Mr. Miller said. “The deal will take several months to work out—it’s up in the air when you’re dealing with a municipality.”
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