October 04, 2006

Harbor Preservation Imperiled?

It's all about the Benjamins. With an over $3 million difference between what public officials are willing to pay and what representatives for the seller are asking, the acquisition of Boys and Girls Harbor in East Hampton may be a non starter.

According to sources close to the negotiations, East Hampton Town and Suffolk County received appraisals of the waterfront acreage that came in at over $8 million. By law, public entities can't pay more than a certain percentage over an official appraisal. The property is listed with Prudential Douglas Elliman at $12 million — nearly the same price tag East Hampton and Suffolk paid for twice as much land adjacent to the Springy Banks Road site around five years ago.

Chris Chapin of Prudential said this week that the foundation that operates Boys and Girls Harbor is charged with getting the highest return possible for the 26-acre locale, home for some 50 years to a camp for underprivileged children. With money from a sale, the Harbor could purchase much more land in upstate New York to create a new campsite for the charity, which serves children and teens from East and Central Harlem. Beyond buying a bigger and better site, a hefty return could also guarantee that BGH is well set to continue its mission.

This week Chapin laid claim to a trio of private buyers. "We're having strong showings," he said. Potential purchasers are looking at the land for a private camp, a family compound "trophy estate" and even subdivision. The acreage could "easily" accommodate four separate residential lots, the broker said.

"I don't think the town is going to get it," he said Friday. "They're moving at a glacial pace, and they're going to be a day late and a dollar short." He described the county/town offer as "unrealistic."

Meanwhile local attorney Jeff Bragman, who represents Harbor founder Tony Duke believes there is still hope. "Tony remains very firmly in favor of a public acquisition. We think it would be good for the town and county, the neighbors and Boys and Girls Harbor," he said this week.

Bragman acknowledged that public negotiators have made an "opening" offer and that negotiations are continuing in good faith.

Chapin, however, implied the appraisals used by the government reps are less than on target. He explained that ordinarily appraisals compare the subject property to other similar land sales. The trouble is, he noted, there are no other comparable properties.

The community was shocked last fall when The Independent broke the news that BGH was on the block. In an exclusive interview, Duke spoke of both a desire to secure the charity's future and leave a legacy to East Hampton, the camp's home for 50 years.

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