The owners of the Pyrrhus Concer house filed a notice of claim, or a precurser to a lawsuit, against the village on Monday, seeking $10 million in damages.
On Monday afternoon, Mr. Gilmartin filed the notice with the village, and said his clients are seeking actual and punitive damages from the village ARB. According to Mr. Gilmartin, the damages include the loss of property value, the loss of investment and penalizing the village for violating his clients’ constitutional rights.
With the notice of claim filed, Mr. Gilmartin must wait 30 days before filing the lawsuit in New York State Court.
“Let there be no doubt,” he said. “The village has harmed my clients financially, and it is my intent to return the favor in multiple.”
The owners of the Pyrrhus Concer house do intend to file an appeal with the Suffolk County Supreme Court as soon as possible, their attorney David Gilmartin of the Water Mill law firm Farrell Fritz confirmed on Thursday morning.
According to Mr. Gilmartin, the decision by the ARB goes against the purpose of the board and violates the constitutional rights of his clients, David and Silvia Hermer, who were given no indication that demolition would be a problem when they purchased the house. He went on to call the decision by the ARB outrageous, and said he has never had a case where a board “tortured the interpretation” of its own code so much.
“In many ways it is a surprise because it is an outrageous decision,” Mr. Gilmartin said. “The board clearly bowed to public pressure and ignored the plain meaning of their own statute.”
On Thursday morning, Mr. Gilmartin said he plans to file an appeal immediately. He also said that the lawsuit will focus on the idea that the village is placing the burden of preserving this house on the owners, which violates the fifth amendment.
“Let the village be forewarned,” he said. “The fifth amendment prevents the government from forcing private homeowners, like my client, from bearing public burden. That will be a huge part of this lawsuit.”
Southampton Village denied an application to demolish a house connected to local historical figure Pyrrhus Concer on Wednesday night.
The Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, which has been holding public hearings regarding the house for the past several months, voted 3-1 against the proposal to demolish the house to make way for a new two-story home at 51 Pond Lane.
Since the hearing opened to the public in September, there had been a heated debate between the owners, through attorney David Gilmartin of the Water Mill law firm Farrell Fritz, who is representing the owners, and those who oppose the demolition, saying it is an integral part of African-American history on the East End.
Mr. Concer was born a slave in 1814. He was freed and went on several whaling expeditions. During one of them, on a boat captained by Mercator Cooper, he became one of the first Americans—and the first African-American—to dock in Japan. The whaling boat he was on rescued Japanese sailors in distress, going on to dock in Tokyo. Upon returning to Southampton, Mr. Concer launched the Lake Agawam ferry service.
Opponents of the proposal say the property would not be in jeopardy if it had been included in past historical references, noting that pieces of black history are often left out of such records.
The date of the house’s construction is unknown; it has architecture consistent with the early 1900s, but it is unclear whether the structure dates to the time when Concer might have lived in it, in part because records related to African-American-owned homes are incomplete.
Mr. Gilmartin could not be reached for comment on Thursday morning.