The first Battle of Sag Harbor took place in 1777, when the Continental Army raided Loyalist forces near the Old Burying Ground; six Loyalists were killed. Today, the battle in Sag Harbor is over preservation, and the only casualty is neighborliness.
It’s all Watchcase’s fault. Back when the swanky new condo complex was a rotting hulk of a factory in the center of town, locals liked the village the way it was: quaint, old-fashioned, and unglitzy. The new complex brought lots of attention and lots of money to the village, and prices skyrocketed. Big new houses started to go up.
Alarmed, the cry went up: "Our Village Is at Risk!" A new group, Save Sag Harbor, collected signatures, and the village trustees imposed a six-month moratorium on building projects. That pissed off homeowners who had projects in the pipeline. Soon, lawsuits and subpoenas blanketed the village.
On the one side were preservationists. On the other side were homeowners who also claimed to be preservationists. One, Mike Gaynor, was fighting mad. He told Curbed last winter, "My track record speaks for itself. I am a preservationist. I just finished a multi-year, multi-million dollar restoration on my current home, the Benjamin Hope House. The village told me they loved my preliminary design for Madison Street, but after I invested north of $100K in architectural drawings and legal services, they changed their mind and said no. The real issue though is just dirty government. The way the village treat its citizenry is just despicable. They are arrogant bordering on hateful and spiteful."
Eventually, compromises were reached. The new restrictive town code was loosened up. Vanity Fair quotes Sag Harbor ARB chair emeritus Cee Scott Brown: "Nerves are frayed, trust worn. People avoid eye contact. That’s not good in a small village." As for Mike Gaynor, he says, "Sag Harbor weather: Sunny with a 100% chance of more angry glances than I typically see this time of year."
- The battle of Sag Harbor: historic homes, pricey penthouses, and scores of subpoenas [VF]
- Talking with Mike Gaynor, the Sag Harbor Resident Suing the Village for Blocking Renovations [CH]
- An Impressive Renovation of an Iconic Sag Harbor Home [CH]