Fire-Ravaged Building Can Remain Standing

The owner of the Sag Harbor Cinema site, which is partially vacant after the cinema’s lobby was demolished in December, has yet to grant the owners of 69 Main Street access across his property so that they can begin to shore up the building. Christine Sampson

One of the buildings devastated by the fire that ripped through a portion of Sag Harbor’s Main Street two months ago still has not been properly shored up, village officials said yesterday.

According to a report from Paul J. Angelides, a consulting and forensic engineering firm in Syosset, the building at 96 Main Street, which housed Brown Harris Stevens, suffered major damage but can be restored and is not in danger of collapse. However, temporary bracing is needed, and to date the work has not been completed. The owners, the Katz family, under the name East End Land Corporation, want to have the work done, Thomas Preiato, the village building inspector said, but they need access from the neighboring Sag Harbor Cinema property and have not yet received it. 

Their two-story building, a mixed commercial-residential building with a second-floor apartment and offices below, sits to the south of a now-vacant lot where the Sag Harbor Cinema lobby stood, with its Art Deco sign facing out onto Main Street. The lot has been filled and graded and cordoned off by a plywood construction fence. The front of the cinema building was demolished the night of the fire (the auditorium remains), and the building to its north, at 84 Main Street, was demolished days later.

The Dec. 16 fire caused structural damage to 75 percent of the flat-roof building at 96 Main Street and its underlying ceiling joists, according to Adam C. Cassel, a chief civil and structural engineer at the firm. Non-load-bearing wood-framed interior partition walls on the second floor were damaged, “with much of the contents and interior finishes being reduced to debris and ash,” he said.

Water used to extinguish the blaze — which the fire marshal said started outside of the Compass building at 84 Main Street and quickly spread due to strong winds on the morning of the fire — leaked down into the first floor at 96 Main Sreet, causing widespread damage to the building’s interior, according to the report.

During his investigation, Mr. Cassel found that five joists over the first floor were cracked as the result of being weakened by a fire that occurred decades ago. “The pre-existing weaknesses caused multiple joists to sag and crack under the overbearing weight imposed by the water from the firefighting activity along with fire-damaged construction debris and contents on the second floor,” he wrote.

The report, prepared for Minogue Associates of Massapequa and submitted to the village, was written on Jan. 13 following the Dec. 23 inspection. Sag Harbor Village released it late last week.

The engineer said the building was stable and did not pose a hazard to the neighboring property to its south or to the public. However, he said, temporary bracing was necessary to provide lateral support for the “now-freestanding upper portion of the right side brick wall” until the roof could be rebuilt. A section of a chimney stack would need to be demolished after the bracing is completed.

Gerry Mallow owns the Sag Harbor Cinema property and has not yet given the Katz family permission to access their building from his property.

“They want to get moving and we want them to move,” Mr. Preiato said, adding that he cannot force Mr. Mallow to allow the neighbors access to the property, but that there is real estate law that would require access should it go to court. “Eventually it’s going to be a health and safety issue,” he said.

Mr. Cassel’s report also outlined structural repairs that will be needed to restore the building, including reframing the entire roof, replacing some of the wall framing, and reconstruction of the fire-damaged covered rear porch. The masonry has to be cleaned and sealed from the heavy soot and smoke deposits on the interior and exterior walls.