Brookhaven Taps Lower Bid, Cites Environmental Concerns
A new lease agreement between the Town of Brookhaven and Mount Sinai Yacht Club sees its annual price increase by a factor of 10, and some bidders were left unhappy with the board’s final choice.
The Town Board voted unanimously to award the lease bid to the Mount Sinai Yacht Club for a term from Jan. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2040, for a total of $302,500 annually. This amount will increase by 3 percent after the first 10-year period and every five years after.
This is a hefty jump of what the yacht club is currently paying for the lease agreement, $29,109. Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said the site is assessed at around $110,000, but competitive bids upped that price.
Both Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) recused themselves from the discussion, with Bonner being a member and LaValle’s family having been past members.
The town acquired the property in 1975 through a condemnation process for “town purposes.” The town then leases the property to the yacht club, and the first term of the town lease that was set to expire in 2000 was extended until 2020. The yacht club operates the marina and ancillary facilities, with a yacht club commodore saying they currently operate over 100 boat slips. The lease agreement includes 2.4 acres of upland and 2.6 acres of underwater property. He said the yacht club currently has a $1.2 million gross yearly revenue through both its house and general funds.
The yacht club charges $1,000 as a first-time fee and $1,600 in annual fees after that. Some who spoke at the Dec. 5 meeting charged that it was unfair that taxpayers be restricted from entering town property based on being a member or paying for the privilege.
Jeffrey Hulse, a Sound Beach-based attorney representing the yacht club, said the yacht club considers itself a “public-oriented facility” that makes itself available for other organizations to meet or run events, including Boy Scout groups and Coast Guard Auxiliary.
“We are open on a nondiscriminatory basis for anyone who wants to apply — we bring in new members each and every year,” said the attorney, who is also a 30-year member of the club. “We consider ourselves a working man’s clubhouse … we maintain this club in a pristine condition.”
Several scores of yacht club members attended the Dec. 5 public hearing where trustees discussed the merits of the separate bids. By the end they clapped and cheered as the town announced its decision.
“We’ve had the honor of experiencing an environment that is very family oriented and community oriented,” yacht club member John Amato said to the board. “This organization has provided our family with the true experience of family and community when we lost our son almost 17 years ago.” He added the club has facilitated scholarships for high school students throughout the local area in the name of his son.
However, not all were happy with the board’s decision.
“Sounds to me if I wanted to go there, I would have to come up with $2,600 before I step foot on the property.”
— Chris Abbot
Chris Abbot, of the Riverhead-based Smith, Finkelstein, Lundberg Isler and Yakaboski LLP, represents Russell Waller, the CFO of North Shore Enterprises, the operator of Old Man’s Boatyard along the same peninsula as the yacht club. That proposal came in at $327,600.
In its original proposal letter, then attorney for Waller, Dennis Collins, proposed creating a restaurant with bar service that is open to the public, also renovating the upstairs attic area into a large room with an outside deck that could be rented for parties or meetings. The proposal also spoke of securing the four docks and 100 boat slips with gates and cameras in the same way that Danfords in Port Jefferson secures its docks.
The attorney was miffed over the board’s decision, saying his client’s proposed bid was the highest out of the four submitted. The yacht club’s bid came third highest at a total of four other bids for the lease, the other amounts being $230,000 from Strong’s Marine in Mattituck and $317,000 from William Dick, a yacht club member and past commodore.
“The yacht club was there when the town acquired the property through a condemnation proceeding — that’s when property is for public use and benefit,” Abbot said. “Sounds to me if I wanted to go there, I would have to come up with $2,600 before I step foot on the property.”
Members of the town board said the choice in lease agreement also came down to the use of the property, with Abbot’s client looking to add an additional story to the building, which a town review said would have increased traffic and parking issues, as well as environmental concerns. The yacht club, and other surrounding buildings are built on a sandbar, and Eaderesto said an analysis showed an intensified use would lead to more pollution into the Mount Sinai Harbor.
A report from the town’s Division of Land Management said they were concerned with the other proposals for adding to the footprint and height of the structure, saying it would increase the impact of nitrogen and traffic. The report acknowledged the Mount Sinai Management Plan, which looked to keep development of the sand bar down while looking to restore habitat and decrease pollution.
“We have a lot of issues in this town, but money is not always the paramount issue,” said Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville). “We always try to find the best fit, and in a town with over $300 million budget every dollar matters … to me on a sandbar, I don’t find the actions of this committee to be in any way arbitrary.”