Police Still Investigating Vandalism Of Watchcase Condos In Sag Harbor

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Police are still searching for those who vandalized the luxury condominiums at the former Bulova watchcase factory in Sag Harbor, two weeks after unknown individuals spray-painted the words “SAVESAGHARBOR.ORG” more than a dozen times across the siding, windows and doors of six unfinished units on Church and Sage streets. The culprits also broke several windows using rocks.

Representatives of the group Save Sag Harbor, which is dedicated to upholding the reconstituted 2009 village zoning code and a new opponent of the project, said this week that they had nothing to do with the vandalism, which is estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $20,000 to repair and occurred sometime between Friday, February 21 and Monday, February 24. In recent months, members of the group have publicly opposed the same specific aspects of the project that were targeted by the vandals.

“It seems to me that somebody was out to attack both Save Sag Harbor and the project itself, I guess,” said Myrna Davis, the treasurer of the group that owns both the www.SaveSagHarbor.org and www.SaveSagHarbor.com websites, but only utilizes the latter address. “What else is the message? I’m puzzled by who was sending a message and what it is.”

When asked if her group had anything to do with the vandalism, Ms. Davis added: “Why would anyone that does vandalism attach their name to it?”

Village Police are still examining video footage supplied by surveillance cameras from an undisclosed angle of Church Street and have also interviewed a few potential witnesses, according to Detective Jeffrey Proctor. The incident report indicates that no paint containers were recovered from the scene.

Det. Proctor added that while he does not think the plan was hatched by Save Sag Harbor, noting that resorting to vandalism is not the way group members typically operate, investigators have not ruled out any possibilities at this point. “A disgruntled worker at the site, kids playing a prank, someone who reads the papers and wants to pin it on the group—it could be anyone,” the detective said.

Det. Proctor is also asking those who live near the construction site, and who saw or heard any suspicious activities the weekend the vandalism took place, to contact Village Police. All calls will be kept confidential, he said.

“Even if they just heard something strange, as it’d give us a time frame for the surveillance,” he added.

Ms. Davis, meanwhile, stressed that the group is not seeking such attention, and that vandalism is simply not a part of her group’s repertoire.

“We’re not a rogue group or anything—we defend the village zoning code,” she said. “We had a conversation with the people from Cape Advisors, who have been very responsive to architectural preservation concerns. Our relationship isn’t the least bit adversarial. And that was clear to the police as well—no one even called us from the police.

“We work within the system and keep things sensible,” she concluded.

Commenting on the black 3-inch-tall block stencil letters, stretching more than 3 feet across, as well as the damage to the windows and doors, site manager and foreman for the Cape Advisors project, Ray Riha, said all the targeted doors and windows need to be replaced, though the cedar siding can be sanded down and is still usable. Cape Advisors, which is based in Manhattan, will be footing the bill for the repairs that, as of Tuesday, had not yet begun, according to Mr. Riha. A completion date for the luxury condominiums has not yet been given.

On October 28, Save Sag Harbor officials read a letter at a village Architectural Review and Historic Preservation Board meeting stressing their unhappiness with the Watchcase project.

“The construction of the townhouses has been more than disappointing,” the letter, which is posted online at www.SaveSagHarbor.com, states. “The scale of each is too big for the surrounding properties … and then several of the materials selected for finishing were completely inappropriate for a 300-year-old historic village that is a locally and nationally designated historic district.”

The letter also notes that the synthetic materials used specifically on the doors, facades and aluminum windows were the predominant concerns of group members. Calling ARB approval of such materials “inexplicable in light of the written criteria guiding its decisions,” the letter laments that homeowners in the surrounding areas have been prohibited from using similar materials in the past.

Even though police do not think that group members are responsible for the vandalism, Mr. Riha recalled a visit a few months back from “a couple of old ladies” who expressed interest in buying one of the units, which are expected to sell for more than $4 million each. He said he obliged and, a few days later, representatives of Save Sag Harbor attended the next ARB meeting to protest the materials used for the siding, the types of windows and the molding installed around the windows and doors.

“And the only things that were vandalized were the things they’ve been complaining about,” Mr. Riha noted, though he would not go as far as to blame group members for the vandalism.

“We have their pictures hanging in the trailer in case they swing by again,” he later joked.

He also noted that the builders no longer pay for a security detail to patrol the unfinished condominiums, explaining that the project has been in the works for years and their employment had become too expensive.

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