Editor’s Note: This story was updated with the print version that appeared in the July 25 issue of The Suffolk Times.
The Greenport Village Board decided last Thursday that it would give the owners of Claudio’s Waterfront until Monday to submit essential documentation showing it is in compliance with specific code regulations, or face potential closure.
By 1 p.m. Monday, according to village administrator Paul Pallas, all of the necessary documentation had been delivered to Village Hall.
Board members determined at last week’s work session that, given the amount of time the property owners have had to comply, action must be taken. They gave Claudio’s until Monday to show they had installed a required pumpout station, a prerequisite for obtaining a valid Certificate of Occupancy. On Friday, when a code enforcement officer was sent to review progress, it was determined that the pumpout station had been installed and was operating properly. The officer returned Monday morning to confirm and reported the same results.
Claudio’s new owners, who purchased the business in March 2018, had received a “fast-tracked” approval of their wetlands permit March 28, 2019, after officials expressed concern about the disruption the work would cause other businesses, according to previous reporting. The owners needed the permit to replace bulkheading in three areas at the waterfront site.
To ensure that construction would be finished by Memorial Day — and to quell safety concerns raised by the owners, who brought in John Costello of Costello Marine Contracting to describe the safety issues to the board — the trustees approved the wetlands permit the same night they held a public hearing on it, expediting the process by at least a month.
“I sat here and approved expediting their wetlands permit and kind of requested that they remain good stewards and do the right thing and, as per my conversation with [village attorney] Joseph Prokop, they continue to operate and have not made any movements so far on becoming compliant,” Trustee Julia Robins said at last week’s meeting. “I understand that they’re able to go to court and keep paying the appearance tickets and doing business as usual and I think at some point we have to let them know that we’re serious. It isn’t just business as usual,” she added. “You have to play by the rules.”
“A lot of my questions [then] were for safety,” Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said by phone Monday, adding that she’d asked Mr. Costello, “ ‘John, what are you telling us? Are you telling us that somebody could drive a car in it and it’s going to go in?’ That’s what was going through my head. It was a safety issue. That’s the only reason I voted for it, because I wasn’t going to … it went out of our normal process.”
The company received a notice of violation June 12 for operating without a valid Certificate of Occupancy for Claudio’s Waterfront (formerly Claudio’s Clam Bar) because a required pumpout station had not been installed, according to the June Village of Greenport Enforcement Report. The notice gave the property owners an opportunity to address the Village Board and correct the problem.
Ms. Phillips said Claudio’s owners did not respond to that notice, prompting code enforcement officer Gregory Morris to issue them one appearance ticket per day from June 28 through at least Monday, July 15.
“The pumpout station that is on the property is tied to the CO at the [clam bar],” Ms. Phillips explained.
Receipts obtained from Southold Town Justice Court show that between June 28 and July 7, a total of 10 CO-related appearance tickets were issued. As per village code, the property owners had 30 days from the date work was completed to occupy and use the building without a CO. According to engineer Nicholas Mazzaferro, that work was “substantially complete by May 24.”
Officials said the restaurant was not in compliance with the village Conservation Advisory Council’s suggestion that, consistent with Greenport’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, a pumpout station be installed. The CAC, formed in the ’90s, functions by way of recommendations, according to Mayor George Hubbard Jr., who said in an interview Monday that it is the CAC that conducts site visits and then reports to the Village Board, which decides whether or not to proceed with those recommendations.
CAC member John Saladino said pumpout stations are routinely recommended “for an active marina, condominium complex, any place there’s more than four or five boats. It’s also part of policy 34 of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.” He added that any marina that was in existence for three years after the passage of the LWRP was required to have a pumpout station.
“That’s consistent with what we’ve been doing,” the mayor said. “We’ve done it at Townsend Manor [Inn], we’ve done it to the condo complexes at the end of Bay and Central, so it’s part of the recommendation all along — it’s part of our code. It’s not something new.”
Mr. Hubbard said Friday that although he was not at Village Hall then, he was told that Claudio’s staff were in and out of the building up to four times that day. “Their pumpout station is working. As far as I know, they are in compliance now. They got everything done that they needed to do,” he added.
Because Claudio’s Waterfront submitted all the necessary paperwork by the Monday deadline, the building department issued the business a valid CO that evening, according to Mr. Pallas.
“The board was promised this would be taken care of … They said they had trouble getting the machinery here, getting the equipment that they need and everything else,” Mr. Hubbard said. “It was just a bunch of delays. This whole process started last October and eventually, the board’s feeling was, they should have ordered this stuff in October when they started planning on doing this project, knowing that they needed to have it.”
The board was later told the parts had arrived, but could not yet be installed.
“There was frustration on part of the trustees [last Thursday] night that, you know, they just need to get this done and be over with and then be open for business,” the mayor said. “Get your CO, get your pumpout station in, then go back to business. We wanted to just bring it to a head and just get it settled.”
Although Claudio’s Waterfront is now in the clear in terms of its CO, its attorney appeared in Southold Town Justice Court Wednesday to answer to the 10 pending appearance tickets. The attorney, Brian DeSesa of Bridgehampton, pleaded not guilty on behalf of the owners and they’re due back in court Aug. 7. The operation also racked up an additional eight appearance tickets between July 8 and 15, according to Justice Court documents. The owners will have to answer to those tickets Aug. 28. Their wetlands permit expires Aug. 18, according to Ms. Phillips.
“We are a mixed-use community and we all need to respect each other, whether we’re the business district or we’re the residential district,” she said at last Thursday’s meeting. “We all need to respect the neighbors if we’re part of the community … It’s upsetting to see that they’re kind of not working toward the goal of getting their permits up to date or getting work done and being upfront with everything … that they are not adhering to the code or getting their certificate of occupancy at this point.”
Mr. Saladino of the CAC supported the board’s decision last Thursday, urging them to maintain a consistent policy in all such cases.
“I think it’s good that you guys are going to do that … as long as the policy stays the same,” he said. “My recollection is, in the past, with another marina, one of the recommendations and one of the conditions that the board imposed was that they install a pumpout.”
In a separate issue, Claudio’s was issued at least five noise complaints between June 9 and July 6, according to the June Village of Greenport Enforcement Report and Southold Town Justice Court documents. Mr. Hubbard said by phone Friday that the mounting noise complaints also need to be addressed due to the village noise ordinance.
“The village administrator and the building department have had discussions with them about, ‘All right, you have a band playing during the day, that’s fine. But you can’t have the DJ playing loud dance music until 2 o’clock in the morning,’ ” the mayor said, adding that Claudio’s owners were advised to tone it down.
“We’re making recommendations; we’re hoping that the new owners will be nice neighbors and that they will turn it down some,” he said Monday. “The repeated complaints and the police having to go down there and say something to them — it’s not something we can address in the short term … but we are definitely going to be looking at it overall because it hasn’t been just them. There have been other places that have had music playing and have been quite loud downtown also.”
“The noise situation,” Ms. Phillips said by phone Monday, “is something … I’m going to bring up next month that we need to change our noise code. My understanding is decibel [levels] — that type of enforcement, once it gets to court, it gets thrown out continuously, so we need to look at something different.
“And I truly believe, yeah, we made it become a destination, but our village is still a community of mixed living styles as individual as the Village of Greenport can be,” she continued. “Observe, learn and listen, become a part of the community, not the object of continual complaints. That’s what Claudio’s needs to hear and I don’t think they’re hearing it.”
Neither Tora Matsuoka nor Stephen Loffredo of Seasoned Hospitality, which runs the Claudio’s complex for the property owners, could be reached by press time for comment on this story.
Correction: An earlier version of the story stated that Crabby Jerry’s was operating without a certificate of occupancy. The violations only pertained to Claudio’s Waterfront.