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May 7, 2014 11:32 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

VFW Is Looking To Sell Longtime Post In Quogue

May 7, 2014 12:18 PM

Hot dogs and hamburgers cooking on the grill, baseball being played under the outdoor lights of an adjacent ball field, and the community coming together.

Those are some of the things that Bill Hughes, the newly installed commander of the Quogue Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5350, will miss most about the club’s location on Montauk Highway, which the organization has owned since the early 1960s and recently—and somewhat reluctantly—put on the market for $1.8 million.

“We will die on the vine if we remain where we are,” said Mr. Hughes, a Hampton Bays resident and a former Southampton Town Police lieutenant, during an interview late last week, shortly after listing the property at 125 Montauk Highway with Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Mr. Hughes, who took over the top post of the 125-member strong veterans organization on April 24, explained that enrollment has been dwindling for years, and VFW leaders believe that the only way to revitalize their group, and turn around declining membership, is to sell their longtime home and move closer to Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton.

The plan, according to Mr. Hughes, who took over just prior to the death of former commander David Golder on April 30, is to sell their 4.4-acre property with the intention of using proceeds from the sale to buy another building closer to the airport—possibly the old Finn’s building on Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton Beach. That building is located just south of the airport, which is also the home of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing.

Mr. Hughes, a Vietnam veteran and one of the first members of the Rescue Wing, said he and other VFW officials believe they will have a better shot at recruiting younger members if they move closer to the ANG base, which boasts just slightly more than 1,000 personnel.

“I’m on a mission,” said Mr. Hughes who, at 63, notes that he is one of the youngest members of the Quogue VFW. “I will complete that mission. It’s about the survival of the group.”

Prior to reluctantly listing the property early last week, Mr. Hughes said he reached out to both Quogue Village and Southampton Town officials, asking if either would be interested in buying the property, which is zoned as residential, before it hit the open market. While Quogue Village officials have expressed little interest in the land, Mr. Hughes said Southampton Town officials did recently make an offer, but it was less than the asking price of $1.8 million.

Mr. Hughes declined to say what the town offered for the property, and Mary Wilson, the manager of the town’s Community Preservation Fund, did not return calls this week inquiring about the town’s appraisal of the property.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst also did not return calls seeking comment on Tuesday.

Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius, meanwhile, said he and other members of the Village Board discussed the possibility of buying the property a few months ago but declined to make an offer. “We don’t see a need for it,” Mr. Sartorius said on Friday. “I still don’t.”

But Mr. Hughes argues that the property is a “great community asset” and he would prefer if the town and village could work together to preserve it. He said that private developers have already expressed interest in buying the land and constructing homes there.

A special zoning permit allows the VFW, which is a non-profit organization, to operate on the site. Mr. Hughes did not know if the special zoning permit would carry over to a new owner, however. The property was assessed at $2.26 million last year, according to town records, though the non-profit is exempt from property taxes.

“It has a great history and it’s a great, nostalgic location for those who have played ball on the field,” Mr. Hughes said.

The ball field and picnic tables out back have hosted hundreds of baseball and softball games, as well as countless other community events and fundraisers. The building itself, meanwhile, boasts a bar and kitchen, as well as two large meeting rooms filled with flags and photographs documenting nearly six decades of history.

Mr. Hughes noted that he and other VFW members have not given up hope regarding possibly striking a deal with the town. “We’re looking for enough to get the deal done,” Mr. Hughes said. “It is a simple property to maintain.”

Mr. Hughes stressed that the post is not looking to make a profit on the sale. Rather, the nonprofit is trying to secure enough money so it can buy a new building and also cover required renovations. He explained that money raised by the organization goes to supporting veterans and their families, as well as the youth in the community.

He explained that, if a deal can be struck with the town, the VFW would use the bulk of the proceeds to buy the Finn’s property, which is owned by EK Riverhead Partners LLC. That property is listed for $1.55 million, according to Andrew Edelman, a co-owner of EK Riverhead.

“We’d be very happy to see the VFW move in,” Mr. Edelman said on Tuesday. “We’re very excited about the possibility, and we hope things work out for them.”

Mr. Hughes added that the VFW would have to invest some of the sale proceeds into restoring the building at 101 Old Riverhead Road, which closed as Finn’s in 2012. Subsequent plans to open a barbecue restaurant from the building were derailed after the person leasing the building completed illegal renovations and ignored a pair of work-stop orders issued by the village. The tenant was later evicted from the property, according to Westhampton Beach Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan, and the building has sat vacant since then.

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Does anyone else see this is a fundemental problem?

"The property was assessed at $2.26 million last year, according to town records, though the non-profit is exempt from property taxes."

"While Quogue Village officials have expressed little interest in the land, Mr. Hughes said Southampton Town officials did recently make an offer, but it was less than the asking price of $1.8 million."

So, the Town tells the property owner it's worth $2.26 million for tax purposes, but ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 8, 14 3:14 PM
What is the date of the assessment if you know?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 8, 14 3:40 PM
Does it matter? Either way it's wrong.. if it were 3 years old, that tells you something. I believe SH Town does residential and commercial every other year
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 8, 14 10:45 PM
Just wondering about the timing of the Town's assessment vs. appraisal for recent sale. Among many variables for the discrepancy you note (including the possibility that a high assessment was never challenged by the VFW, for whatever reason), property values on the East End went through some gyrations after the financial crisis of 2008/2009. If the assessment was old (and too "optimistic") and never challenged as being too high, the current situation is somewhat understandable IMO.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 9, 14 1:01 AM
No, it's not understandable. If the assessment is that old, then the Town is screwing the residents - there's no reason that the properties shouldn't be re-assessed on a bi-annual basis. So, if the assessment was done a year ago, and it came in that high and now an appraisal commissioned by the Town shows it being worth $400,000 less, than something is wrong.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 9, 14 12:01 PM
Of course I meant "understandable" in a more general sense . . .

I agree that each year's tax bill should reflect the actual market value of a property. Is it possible to challenge the assessment amount as part of the process of paying one's taxes each year, or is this possible only when a property is re-assessed?

Did the VFW ever challenge the Town's most recent assessed valuation?

In 2011 this article says the Town was considering going from annual reassessments to ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 9, 14 12:21 PM
Taxes can be grieved I believe on a yearly basis
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 9, 14 2:42 PM
Thanks, have a good weekend.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 9, 14 3:13 PM
I agree that this is a perfect purchase for the CPF. I've seen that field and cannon for 40 years. I'd hate to see another condo/mansion/hedgerow. It's a better more useful purchase idea than Neptunes.
By lirider (288), Westhampton Beach on May 8, 14 10:42 PM
Hello Neighbors,

The VFW always needs new members. As a thank you to veterans and a way to help veterans the CPF is making a perfect purchase.

Please remember the 1% rarely turns to the community for help.

A new location will offer much needed exposure and will also help veterans bond and help each other in their civilian transition.

As a wounded and decorated veteran who votes I support this plan. Thanks,

Jim Fogarty
Rifle Platoon Leader - Retired
By james L. Fogarty (6), remsenburg on May 9, 14 9:06 AM
Southampton Town buys those run-down piles of garbage on Dune Road and does have the sense purchase the beautiful, well kept VFW Quogue property. Frankly the VFW property would make a superb addition to the towns park system. It's already maintained, and ready for the citizens to enjoy into the future. Come on Town Board, do the right thing and make the purchase.
By Tennyson (77), Quogue on May 10, 14 10:53 AM
correction: top line: does should be doesn't. And by the way, today, Saturday, 10 May, a large crowd is at the VFW enjoying a ballgame.....
By Tennyson (77), Quogue on May 10, 14 2:04 PM
I myself was on this very field this morning. As a coach of the Volcanoes (Rookies League, East End Little League), I can’t say enough about how wonderful it is to visit this park. It happens to be a favorite field to play on, and I would hate to drive by years from now and think of how good it used to be. I have utilized our Town’s Dune Road Community Center in the past and I think there could be many opportunities for community use here as well. The fact that the Town Board would be ...more
By Bill Dawson (3), Westhampton Beach on May 10, 14 2:55 PM
2 members liked this comment
If CPF truly stands for Community Preservation Fund, what better purchase to make with the money?
By fourthnecker (3), east quogue on May 11, 14 10:21 AM
2 members liked this comment
Hard to believe that the town is more concerned with collecting property taxes by allowing the VFW to sell to a private investor than they are with preserving the community, let alone helping veterans. It's disgusting. The community preservation fund just purchased land on dune rd, you know, the one that will be washed away during the next major hurricane.
By HB365 (1), Quote on May 13, 14 7:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Quogue VFW is a truly needed field and community gathering spot. The Town should work diligently with the VFW to make sure the purchase moves forward through the CPF fund. Thousands of children benefit from the field use through a calendar year. Baseball, softball, football, soccer all use this field. Youth teams use the lights for night time practice in the fall when daylight is a factor. While we have some area school fields, there is simply not enough field space in the EQ/Quogue area ...more
By donb (1), East Quogue on May 14, 14 4:14 PM
How about a Boardy Barn Annex? Or they could do to it what they did to the Inn at Quogue and make it a members only, general public not allowed restaurant after saying the opposite? And why not?
By G (342), Southampton on May 15, 14 7:22 AM
If SH Town purchased the VFW property the entire township would benefit tremendously. Wake up TOWN HALL! Help and support your local Veterans.
By Yankee7 (1), southampton on May 16, 14 12:47 PM