Gurney's Inn
May 02, 2007

In East Hampton: Boys Harbor Buy Looking Better

It was looking dicey for a while, but this week The Independent learned the purchase of Boys Harbor in East Hampton has cleared a hurdle. According to sources familiar with negotiations, last week Harbor officials accepted offers made by Suffolk County and East Hampton Town.

In an exclusive interview with Boys and Girls Harbor founder Anthony Drexel Duke in 2005, The Independent broke the news that The Harbor was on the market.

Duke founded the camp for underprivileged urban youth in 1937, running it during college vacations. The camp moved to its current location on Springy Banks Road in the northwest section of East Hampton during the 1950s.

The organization's base is in Manhattan, however. It serves some 7000 families in East and Central Harlem. Sale of the valuable East Hampton land would allow The Harbor to purchase cheaper land upstate for a camp and secure the future of the organization for years to come. "One has to be realistic," Duke said during the '05 interview. "Real estate values have gone up all around. It seems wise to put the camp on the market and see what we'd get." He expressed a preference for selling the land to the town. If the land was publicly preserved, "That would be wonderful," the philanthropist mused.

Within a year, however, the public sale was imperiled, with an almost $4 million difference between what the town and Suffolk County were offering for the land and what the sellers were asking. The property was listed with Prudential Douglas Elliman at $12 million.

It's against the law for municipalities to offer far more than appraised values for land. According to sources, last week county officials made clear Suffolk will not pay the top price. There are too many other willing sellers vying for limited county dollars. The next day, both the town and county were contacted and the offer said to be in the $7 million to $8 million range -- was accepted. Broker Chris Chapin of Prudential said he was "not at liberty" to comment about the matter.

In 2001, the town collaborated with Suffolk County to purchases adjoining acreage for $12 million. At 57 acres, it's more than twice as large as the property currently in play. It was listed as a top acquisition priority by the town's community preservation fund committee, boasting close to 4000 feet of waterfront, mature oak forests, protected plant species and prehistoric Native American resources.

The Harbor campground comprises about 27 predominantly forested acres. Playing fields, tennis courts and a handful of wood cabins are scattered throughout the site. The land abuts a private waterfront parcel where Duke's summer home is situated. That's not for sale.

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