Two ‘Owners’ Divided By A Chain

Police were called when a floating dock adjacent to a village launching ramp was chained off and locked by the Sag Harbor Yacht Club, just before Memorial Day weekend.
Police were called when a floating dock adjacent to a village launching ramp was chained off and locked by the Sag Harbor Yacht Club, just before Memorial Day weekend. Carrie Ann Salvi

    An ongoing difference of opinion between Sag Harbor Village and the Sag Harbor Yacht Club over ownership of a boat ramp on Bay Street came to the fore again last month when Mayor Brian Gilbride called village police after a locked chain was strung across the floating dock adjacent to the ramp.
    “The Yacht Club chained it off” on May 22, he said in a conversation on June 5, “temporarily blocking its use. It is not the first time it has happened.” He called the police, he said, so that they could take steps to remove it. “The discussion has gone back and forth over three years,” he said.
    Sag Harbor police and the Sag Harbor Yacht Club confirmed that Steven Novack, the yacht club’s vice commodore, had put the chain up.
    The mayor said that a survey he has seen demonstrates that the property to the right of the ramp belongs to the village. The floating dock to the left of the ramp is also village-owned, but the four boat slips are rented and the corresponding dock is gated as “private” since all of its slips are for the lessee’s own boats.
    “They are good neighbors,” the mayor said of the yacht club. “Silly things happen.”
    “I would have just cut the lock,” said the mayor, but he contacted police instead. He said the concrete ramp is the only public access in that area. Those who use it need a yearly permit and are given 15 minutes to launch their boats.
    The police log confirmed that a survey shown to the officer upon arrival showed the ramp as village property.
    According to Charles Dempsey, the Sag Harbor Yacht Club’s secretary and treasurer, the survey produced was apparently in error. There have been several different surveys, he said on Saturday, with the oldest, and according to him the most reliable, showing the property has belonged to the yacht club since 1900. He also remarked that he gave that survey to the village quite a while ago, when there was an issue with a parking lot.
    Mr. Dempsey said that the village called and asked permission to put a floating ramp on the yacht club’s property years ago, and the club gave its permission, but asked for documentation for liability purposes. He said the club never received the requested paperwork, and after several requests, their attorney, Dennis Downs, suggested it chain off the property. Mr. Downs could not be reached for comment.
    There is no animosity on their part either, the yacht club representative indicated, “We’re not mad, we are just concerned about liability. We will not stop the public from using the ramp, we just do not want to be responsible for any damages or injuries.” It’s an “understandable error,” he said. “The survey is wrong.”