March 16, 2017 -- A meeting of the Sea Cliff Village Board of Trustees turned contentious this past Monday evening as a resident and members of the Board sparred over an e-mail and the Village’s response to Garvies Point, a mixed use development project that includes 1100 residential units and two 11-story towers on the northern shore of Glen Cove Creek - only hundreds of yards across from Sea Cliff.
During his report, Mayor Ed Lieberman read a prepared statement challenging assertions made in a private email that had been sent to some residents the previous week in which the author was critical of the Village Board’s response to the Glen Cove Waterfront development.
Although Mr. Lieberman did not identify the author of the email, it became clear during Public Comment that resident Amy Marion, who is the lead attorney for the Committee for a Sustainable Waterfront, a group that has brought a suit against the City of Glen Cove in an effort to block the development, had sent the private correspondence, which she said was to people within a private group and that it had been labeled confidential.
In his statement, Mayor Lieberman offered some historical background to the Garvies Point project and the Village’s response.
In 2000, he explained that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was agreed to by the Village, an environmental group known as the North Shore Environmental Alliance, the Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency and the City of Glen Cove “that provided for certain development parameters” regarding waterfront development.
Over the next decade, he continued, that “while village administrations changed,” proposals for the Garvies Point development moved through various Glen Cove boards and agencies. During the Planning Board hearings leading up to the 2011 approval, Mr. Lieberman stated that the “Village submitted its objections to the proposal and the failure of the environmental analysis to address various Village-related impacts.”
(That proposal, which was ultimately approved, included three separate plans, including one with a 12 story building, 40% smaller and situated slightly differently than the twin towers in the current plan. The village had submitted a letter to the Glen Cove Planning Board in 2008, while Eileen Krieb was Mayor, and written by current Board Counsel, Brian Stolar, specifically requesting that the plan for the Waterfront Development address the Village’s concerns regarding traffic, aesthetics, air quality, noise and lighting, water resources, construction phasing,the financial viability of the project, and its overall cumulative effects.)
In 2015, when amendments to the 2011 plan were presented to the Planning Board that, Mayor Lieberman said, “would have a dramatic effect on not only the views from the waterfront, but also on the entirety of the Village,” the Village made its objections known with letters from Village Counsel and Mayor Bruce Kennedy providing testimony to the Planning Board. It was at that time, Mr. Lieberman asserted, that the Village Administration had first been provided with a copy of the MOU.
After the Planning Board approved the amended plan, the Village sued the City of Glen Cove, the mayor continued, arguing that the parameters agreed to in the MOU needed to be applied to both the 2011 and 2015 proposals and that the Planning Board did not fulfill its obligations under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
Mr. Lieberman said that he appeared before the Glen Cove Planning Board during the first week of March to “provide the Board with the Village’s objections to the next phase of the project under consideration.”
During the Public Comment period, Ms Marion, speaking without prepared remarks, said she felt obligated to challenge some of the points the Mayor made in his statement.
First, she asserted that the Village should have known about the MOU earlier than 2015.
“Therein lies the difficulty or the problems that this village encountered. In 2009, 2010, 2011 it [the MOU] was available to be received but it was not received,” she said. “That’s a problem - there also were not challenges in 2013, 2014 or 2015.”
Ms. Marion continued that representatives of the Village had not submitted comments to the EPA or DEC or attended public hearings of those agencies regarding the Garvies Point development nor alert the Army Corps of Engineers over the dredging of Glen Cove Creek.
Ms. Marion then recommended that the Village subscribe to the New York State DEC’s daily bulletin which she explained has a good deal of information regarding environmentally friendly lawn and garden practices and programs that the Village might find useful in efforts to maintain and improve the water quality of Hempstead Harbor.
She continued that she had never disparaged any Village Board member or working member of this village, and that “the Mayor and trustees should be commended for their hours of volunteerism and time of service.”
“I come up here to state the facts as I see them - it is only in an effort to work together for the betterment of our village and that everybody appreciates the time and effort and the thankless hours that everyone gives,” she concluded. “All that we are doing here is allowing the democratic process that all of us in this great nation would appreciate.”
Mayor Lieberman replied that he agreed with the last part of Ms. Marion’s statement.
“We don’t always have all the answers,” he said, and then explained that his proposal for a technology task force was to help the Village better disseminate information and give residents’ opportunity to provide input.
The Mayor added that the Village’s Environmental Conservation Commission (ECC), which he said had been “dormant” for a number of years has been revived and become more active.
The Mayor then asked Trustee Dina Epstein if she wanted to comment.
She said that the Commission is made up of volunteers and defended the group’s work.
“If they do not do enough for the village, I apologize, But I think they should be thanked for their time,” she said.
Ms. Marion, who had not mentioned the ECC in her remarks or in her e-mail (a copy of which was provided to Northwordnews upon request) replied that she was not condemning people for volunteering, but that she had an issue with “representations being made that things are being done that are not being done.”
Ms. Epstein asked Ms. Marion if she wanted village volunteers to log their hours so that the community knows they’re doing enough.
Ms. Marion replied that that was not at all what she was seeking. She said that she had never seen Ms. Epstein or members of the ECC at any City of Glen Cove meetings or DEC or EPA public hearings regarding the waterfront development.
“When you say you’re for it, then show up and do it,” she said.
Ms. Epstein replied that opposition to the waterfront project was being “mounted by the Village and our very competent counsel” and that it was not the function of the Commission to litigate the issue.
Trustee Kevin McGilloway then weighed in.
“You mentioned that you had no intention of making any disparaging comments and that you respect volunteers but publishing ‘asleep at the wheel’ (a quote from the e-mail) is disparaging to me,” he said. “If you do respect and appreciate what we do, I do think many people take it as disparaging. When I heard it, I took it as a disparaging comment. If it wasn’t intended to be that - I would clarify it so there’s no confusion.”
Ms. Marion replied that it was a private e-mail that she had sent to a private group and that a statement at the bottom indicated that it was confidential and that unintended recipients had an obligation to delete it.
“Where did you see this ‘published’?” she asked. “This was privileged, confidential information in an email.”
Trustee McGilloway asked is she would be willing to “put it in writing” that she was not intending to disparage board members.
Ms. Marion reiterated her earlier points, saying that representatives of the Village had not shown up at various meetings from 2009 to 2015.
Trustee McGilloway said that he wasn’t on the Board for most of that time and then added, “I have not heard or seen you come to a Village Board meeting once prior to tonight - then you don’t show until tonight, and go back five or seven years, when I wasn’t even here, and smear us.”
Ms. Marion replied that she had been to some meetings, and expressed regret that she had not been paying attention to the waterfront development earlier.
“I’m the first one to say that I was asleep at the wheel when it came to the Waterfront,” she said. “I was not around." She said others, including a local environmental group, had raised concerns.
“But I wasn’t the one to be elected and who asked to be in charge of this village.” I never said ‘I want to be a village trustee and look out for the village’ and so I elected individuals who I thought would be a the helm but I was wrong.”
Following the meeting, former mayor and current Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy said that the two signatories of the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding - the Mayor at the time, and the chairman of the North Shore Environmental Alliance, had not mentioned the agreement to his administration prior to 2015, at the time when the amendments to the 2011 plans were being considered by the Glen Cove Planning Board.
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The Sea Cliff Board recognized four residents this past Monday night. Department of Public Works Employee John Telese received a certificate of appreciation for his 30 years of service to the Village, while Trustee Dina Epstein presented a Heritage Tree certificate to David Schierhorst, whose mother Laura Schierhorst, a 79 year resident of Sea Cliff, requested the designation for a white oak on her West Avenue property that has a diameter of 11 feet and is estimated to be between 200 and 500 years old. And lastly, Trustee Jeff Vitale swore in Andrew Lehman and Leszek Chabowski as members of the Hook and Ladder Company of the Sea Cliff Fire Department.
BOARD ANNOUNCES FORMATION OF A TECHNOLOGY TASK FORCE TO RECOMMEND IMPROVEMENTS
Trustee Kevin McGilloway announced that he has been assigned by Mayor Lieberman to chair a “Technology Task Force” that has been charged with improving the Village Website and communications between Village government and the community. He said that he has spent 25 years managing technology in his professional career. In addition to improving the website, he said live-streaming board meetings was also being considered. The Village is looking for volunteers to serve on the Task Force.
AIR BnB FOLLOW UP
Offering an update on concerns raised by residents at the previous meeting regarding a house on their street being rented out as an Air BnB, Trustee McGilloway stated that he and Mayor Lieberman had met with about a dozen of those residents and that the board would possibly be looking into a legislative solution to the problem. In this particular case, an individual renting a property on a long term basis has been re-renting to others on weekends and on a short-term basis.
The Trustee noted that when he did an on-line search for Air BnB in Sea Cliff, 11 properties appeared.
“We don’t want what I call the ‘Montauk effect," said Trustee McGilloway, in which he explained, that properties there are often rented out for weekend blow-outs and bachelor parties.
Village Counsel Brian Stolar said that this “is not a specific problem” to Sea Cliff, “but an Island-wide problem.” He continued that some communities have put in very restrictive rules regarding rentals, some requiring a minimum 90 day rental period to avoid the weekend party effect.
Trustee McGilloway said that the board would try to find a way to come up with a legislative solution that would balance property rights of owners who responibly rent out their properties with the rights of neighbors who are concerned about the impact of short-term rental on their quality of life.
That process, which would include community input, would most likely take two to three months, he said.
BEACH CONCESSION AWARDED TO LONG ISLAND BAGEL CAFE
The Board announced that it had voted at its conference the previous week to award Long Island Bagel Cafe the concession to operate the food service at Sea Cliff Beach this Summer. The company operates 11 bagel shop/delicatessen-style restaurants around Long Island including the Sea Cliff Bagel Cafe on Glen Cove Avenue across from the High School, and the Glen Cove Bagel Cafe, in the King Kullen shopping center in Glen Cove.
The beach restaurant and snack bar, previously called the Beach Cafe, had for the previous three years been operated by Rob Byrne who owns the Port Cafe in Port Washington and who had also managed Bernard’s in Glen Head.
During discussions at the two previous Board conferences, it was stated that Long Island Bagel Cafe had offered the highest bid - $5,000 - $1400 more than Mr. Byrne’s bid and $1100 more than Still Partners’ offer, and that it would be paid to the Village in one payment rather than in three installments as had been proposed by both of the other two bidders.
THREE YEARS LATER, STILL LITTLE PROGRESS IN SHORING UP SLOPE DAMAGED BY BAY AVENUE MUDSLIDE
Just two months before the third anniversary of the rain induced mudslide that took with it the rear patio and much of a Bay Avenue homeowner’s backyard into Hempstead Harbor, neighbors, worried about the threat erosion poses to their own properties, continue to be frustrated and concerned over the slow pace of progress in the construction of a new retaining wall and other work needed to shore up the slope.
Eileen Kanas and her husband Tom Pitegoff, addressed the Board during Public Comment this past Monday night seeking information concerning the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s approval of a plan for a new seawall and retaining wall. After some back and forth over the meaning of the approval of the application, Village Attorney Brian Stolar said that the DEC had approved the plan, but it was conditional, and that the Village was still awaiting a “cover letter” that would provide more information concerning those conditions.
CONCERNS EXPRESSED ABOUT INCORRECT ABSENTEE BALLOT INFORMATION
During the Public Comment period at this past Monday evening’s Village Board meeting, resident Amy Marion expressed concerns that the applications for absentee ballots for the upcoming Village Board of Trustees and Mayoral elections contained inaccurate information concerning deadlines.
Under New York State Law, residents have up until seven days before the election to request an absentee ballot by mail, and up until one day before the election to pick up an application in person or by a representative. Instructions on the application, Ms. Marion pointed out, said that residents must submit an application at least fourteen days in advance of an election.
In a copy of the original form obtained by Northwordnews, a portion of the instructions on the absentee ballot regarding the deadline contained typographical errors and appeared to be missing a clause.
Brian Stolar, attorney for the Village, said that the forms have since been corrected and that the correct information regarding deadlines appears on the Village Website, and on new application forms that have been prepared.
Ms. Marion replied that she is concerned that some people may have believed that the deadline had already passed, and will give up trying to get an absentee ballot. She suggested that the new information on the website be highlighted in some way and state that there had been an error on the original form.
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