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Jan 21, 2015 10:55 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Breakwater Yacht Club In Sag Harbor Finds Itself In Lease Disagreement With Mayor

Jan 21, 2015 2:15 PM

Officers at the Breakwater Yacht Club in Sag Harbor were scratching their heads last week after learning that the Village Board wants to negotiate the terms of its 20-year lease, which is up at the end of May with an option to renew for 10 more years—a renewal the yacht club expected to be routine.

It turns out, however, that Mayor Brian Gilbride believes the club has not been complying with the terms of the lease, which would give the village a reason to reject the extension.

Although the mayor would not specify what the violations were, a source with knowledge of the situation said they most likely were related to the club failing to connect to the village’s sewer district. In addition, the property was allegedly used for non-yacht club purposes without permission from the village.

The club pays $3,000 a year under the lease that will expire May 31; that will double to $6,000 per year if the lease is renewed for another decade.

While the Breakwater Yacht Club, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is more of a community sailing center than a yacht club—it has about 300 members and hosts sailing programs for people of all ages—Commodore Olaf Neubert said this week that it does offer its facility for events such as weddings and other celebratory occasions.

Mr. Neubert said he had not been notified that the village had concerns, and, when asked specifically about the sewer district and various uses of the property, said, “The club and its members don’t feel we’re in violation of any terms of our agreement.” He said this week that he did not know the lease was going to be on the Village Board’s agenda at its monthly meeting last Tuesday, January 13.

But Bruce Tait, a member of Breakwater’s board of directors who attended the meeting as a Sag Harbor resident, told the board that renegotiating the lease was not an option, as the club does intend to exercise its right of renewal.

Mr. Tait’s exchange with Mr. Gilbride, and its tone, “didn’t do the club any justice,” the mayor said later.

“They had a member who came and said things that were not in the club’s best interest,” Mr. Gilbride said this week. Mr. Tait did not respond to requests for comment.

The Breakwater Yacht Club has leased the upland property and bottomland beneath its docks at 51 Bay Street for 20 years. The lease does not include the club’s building, which founding members built themselves and took out a mortgage for that Mr. Neubert said is still outstanding. The 10-year renewal is predicated on the club complying with all its terms and conditions. If the lease is not renewed, Mr. Neubert said, the building would go to the village, free of charge.

Breakwater is located next to the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard, which also leased a portion of its property from the village. Last summer, yacht yard owner Louis Grignon found himself in a similar situation when the village evicted him from that property after the parties could not agree on the price for a lease renewal.

The land that both Breakwater and the yacht yard sit on was once owned by ExxonMobil, which used the space next to it to store oil tanks. After the property was contaminated by leaks and then remediated, it was deeded to the village for $1 in the 1980s. The leases for the club and the yacht yard were drawn up shortly after.

Mr. Gilbride said he hopes that the village can negotiate with Breakwater so it does not face the same fate as the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard. Although the mayor had mentioned making the former yacht yard property a public resource, that idea has not been broached in discussions about the Breakwater Yacht Club.

“I’m just trying to give the club a fair break here,” Mr. Gilbride said, adding that in the future it would be beneficial for the village to have shorter lease agreements in case different boards do not agree with the terms and conditions. “Those agreements were entered in at the same time, for much longer periods of time than they should have been.”

He added, “My job is to protect all the residents in the village, and that’s what I do. Unfortunately, I continue to find myself in some of these predicaments. But I’m a thick-skinned guy. And I’m patient.”

Mr. Neubert agreed that he would like to sit down with village officials to discuss the lease, although he and his fellow volunteers said they were “puzzled” to find themselves in this predicament in the first place. “We don’t believe we’ve done anything wrong,” he said, but added, “If there’s anything we’ve allegedly done wrong under the agreement, we’ll fix it. We’ve been good citizens of the town, doing things for the public.”

The club is known for being an alternative to private yacht clubs in Sag Harbor. A yearly individual adult membership costs $140, and those who apply are not screened or interviewed before joining. Membership costs $30 for individuals under 22 years of age.

The club boasts various sailing programs, including one for local schools such as Pierson, East Hampton High School and the Ross School, along with junior and adult sailing programs over the summer. Breakwater also hands out around 20 to 30 scholarships for kids and teens to participate in its sailing programs.

While Mr. Neubert said he is confident that an agreement can be reached for a lease renewal, he is unsure of what will happen to the club once that renewal expires as well. The club, he said, is an integral part of Sag Harbor as a waterfront village, and without it, part of its character would be lost.

“The impact that we have, I’d like to think, is significantly greater than the membership,” Mr. Neubert said. “What can be worse than having a community sailing center?”

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The mayor is a bully, plain and simple. He pushed his weight around with the Yacht Yard, all the while saying there was a public use, though none has ever been articulated as an actual alternative. Now Breakwater is undergoing the same problem with this mayor. Elections are coming in June... time for someone to go.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Jan 21, 15 6:04 PM
He is a bully with anyone who doesn't agree with him, fire, police, building department, sailing clubs, restaurant owners etc, etc, etc.
By Sagdays (23), Southampton on Jan 22, 15 10:11 AM
There is no breach of any kind, and the town attorney knows it. Any action taken to deny the right of renewal is sanctionable against the mayor and the attorney supporting it. If any attempt is made to evict, BYC should sue the mayor in his individual capacity.
By RtRoth33 (9), Cheshire on Feb 19, 15 1:41 PM
San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons, Hampton Bays, Scottos