Eyeing Wharf Takeover

Maintenance costs at issue between Sag and Suffolk
A pier without a lease: Sag Harbor Long Wharf
A pier without a lease: Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride wants to settle the ownership of Long Wharf so he can complete the village budget. Carrie Ann Salvi

    Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf, a Suffolk County road, is likely to be turned over to the Village of Sag Harbor within a few months, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said on Friday. There has been no lease in effect for the dock and paved area for over a year, according to Mayor Brian Gilbride, and from the village’s point of view there is only a brief window to learn the outcome, as the board is in the midst of the budget process. The options, the mayor said Monday, are for the village to take over the wharf, for the old lease to be extended, or for a new, negotiated 10-year lease.
    The future of the wharf has been the subject of ongoing debate, with a Long Wharf advisory committee, made up of village and county representatives, formed to discuss the matter. The talks have included the cost of wharf repair and maintenance, as well as revenue from boat slips, mooring, and transient dockage at the property, with no conclusion reached as of the last meeting, on Feb. 14. The committee is not scheduled to meet for another two months, Mr. Schneiderman said, but Mr. Gilbride said he needs an answer as soon as possible in order to plan for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be required for maintenance.
    At present, the village is footing the bill for insurance, plowing, sanding, sweeping, repairing potholes, removing garbage, policing the property, and overseeing the docks.
    The county has made investments, too, including the replacement of the steel bulkhead, which Mr. Schneiderman said cost more than a million dollars. It now needs to be painted. Additional expenses to be budgeted include dredging, as discussed at a Feb. 14 harbor committee meeting.
    Making it safer for pedestrians, with railings, lighting, and other improvements, is also on the agenda following the November death of a man who fell from the wharf. Bruce Tait, the chairman of the harbor committee, said such precautions are critical in light of the recent proposal for passenger ferry service from Long Wharf, a potential source of revenue for the wharf’s owner.
    On Monday, Mr. Gilbride said he was willing to take over ownership. The village hasn’t always been so willing, having turned the wharf over to the county years ago because of the high maintenance costs, according to Mr. Schneiderman. But as the county is in a financial crisis, with a $100 million budget deficit, transferring ownership is probably the right answer, he said.
    The Long Wharf committee is likely to vote in favor of giving the wharf to the village, he said. If County Executive Steve Bellone doesn’t take the initiative, the legislator said, he would draft a resolution within the next two months.
    Mr. Schneiderman has already introduced legislation to hand over to the village free of charge the beach adjacent to the wharf, including the windmill and property beneath the bridge to North Haven. It is expected to be voted on this month.