Montauk United

Providing Montauk Residents a Means to Speak and Act as One!


Posted by John Stikeman on May 29, 2019 at 9:30 AM

There have been a number of comments, pro and con, with respect to the acquisition of Duryea's by Mr. Marc Rowan and his plans for the restaurant. This is a space where members of Montauk United can post their commens for all to see. Please click on "comments" if you wish to add your own views.

To help frame the issues, below is a summary of the position of Lisa Grenci of the Tuthilll Road Association, and that of Marc Rowan, the present owner of Duryea's. 

Lisa Grenci - Montauk is Not for Sale

There is still a place in Montauk so peaceful and beautiful, it’s lost in time. It’s a place where kids can ride their bikes and dogs can run in the street and won’t get run over by a car. But now Montauk’s oldest neighborhood is up against a billionaire hedge funder who has sued the Town multiple times to get his way, which will change all that. We urgently need your help to save this neighborhood, keep freshwater Tuthill Pond clean and prevent Fort Pond Bay from becoming an oil slick way-station filled with sea-planes and tender boats bringing passengers back and forth to the continuously expanding Duryea’s Lobster Deck, Oyster Bar, Private Dining Areas and Restaurant.

Our neighborhood, friends and people who care about Montauk have banded together, as we did in the past to Stop the Ferry, to combat a restaurant that is seemingly impervious to financial slaps on the wrist and which continues to modify and expand its indoor and outdoor seating areas, and do whatever it pleases, without the benefit of site plan review or any sort of environmental review, all of which flies in the face of a 1997 Zoning Board of Appeals Determination that found that no such lawful restaurant use exists on the property and that the business never provided fixed seating, either indoors or out, and has never provided table service by waiters or waitresses.

This restaurant has unlimited funding. The restaurant is “winning” because of that (and due to an illegal stipulation signed by the Town Attorney who had no legal right to do so), and not because they have followed the town code as everyone else has had to do. The owners knew they were buying a .25 upland acre of property of usable business space with no restaurant but that has not deterred them.

Duryea’s continued expansion with no New York State Environmental Quality Review Act Approvals or East Hampton Town Planning Department approvals is harming our beautiful hamlet and ecosystem in the oldest continuous Montauk neighborhood, while disregarding every environmental law on the books. Traffic is a nightmare on this tiny roadway and a detriment to our emergency services. Parking is occurring actually IN the pond, a septic waste system and commercial parking has been proposed to be placed on residentially zoned property (against our zoning code) and on property which historically was used by our Native Montaukett tribe as a fresh watering hole contiguous to their old Fort on nearby Fort Hill. The state of the art sewage waste system proposed by the owner appears to have been designed to handle a 350 seat restaurant and is proposed to be located uphill of the pond which will leach its waste downhill into Tuthill Pond, destroying the natural wildlife and their habitat and affecting neighboring wells. Lisa Grenci

Marc Rowan - Owner of Duryea's

Duryea’s for me is a labor of love first and second and a commercial activity thereafter. Chip trusted me to carry on what his family had owned for two generations and you should feel free to check in with him as he is a tough critic. I bellieve the danger in outright opposition to all change is that it discourages responsible owners from doing the right thing for fear of “making waves”. To be clear, the only physical change sought at Duryea’s is the installation of an advanced, low nitrogen septic system in place of the functioning, but older, system. I encourage you to read my two letters to the editor and the attached article below.

To the Editor:

For a generation, significant parking, commercial activity and dining have taken place along the shores of Fort Pond Bay and along the edge of Tuthill Pond. For nearly 30 years, Edna McGlynn and other members of the Tuthill Road Association have written letters about this activity, to which Duryea’s ownership has responded by pointing out its vested, pre-existing rights that preceded residential development in the area.

In some sense, nothing has changed at Duryea’s, including the parking, size and scale of outdoor seating and related commercial activity. What has changed is the popularity of Montauk in general and of Duryea’s in particular. In 2015, following my purchase of Duryea’s, I proposed a substantial reduction in the size of the Duryea’s building that would still maintain its historic character. I also proposed installing an upgraded septic system, eliminating the buildings adjacent to Tuthill Pond and improving parking adjacent to Tuthill Pond and elsewhere.

These efforts were met with opposition from Edna and her colleagues and were ultimately discontinued in favor of the status quo. Notwithstanding the position of the Tuthill Road Association, over the past few years I have protected the Duryea legacy and history, repaired what needed to be repaired including the dock and revetments, reduced our environmental footprint, eliminated the use of harmful chemicals and moved garbage indoors along with a range of other measures designed to reduce our environmental footprint. Most recently, I donated an adjacent parcel of land to the Peconic Land Trust. The most important initiative currently underway at Duryea’s is the upgrade to an advanced, low nitrogen septic system. Edna and her colleagues also oppose this even though it will bring only environmental benefits to the property and entails no physical expansion.

Ultimately, a balance between historical land use, commercial activity, environmental protection and quality of life should be found throughout Montauk. I can only imagine how difficult it will be to find this balance in the main commercial core of Montauk given the experience thus far at Duryea’s.

To the Editor:

Re: Fragile Wetlands (April 12, 2019). Many years ago, people were unaware that sanitary systems built adjacent to wetlands did tremendous damage to the water supply and environment in general. Unfortunately, this is the current condition along many of Montauk’s waterways. The ONLY CONSTRUCTION planned at Duryea’s is the replacement of an older septic system with an advanced low nitrogen system; something the Town, Concerned Citizens of Montauk and almost every environmental organization has strongly encouraged. This is not something I am required to do, but what is right. In addition, since buying Duryea’s I eliminated most disposable plastic, I pump my septic frequently to minimize any leaching even though the existing system works just fine, I close early to avoid late night noise and I serve only wine and beer instead of liquor to encourage a family-oriented, mature crowd. There is no expansion planned, no change to any buildings or otherwise. As far as becoming a “full restaurant”, the only difference vs the current operation is the ability of a patron to have their order taken by a server and pay a server vs going to the counter to order and pay. Marc Rowan.

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Reply joan
12:08 PM on June 14, 2019 
East Hampton Star Editorial, by David Buda

Duryea's Deal Questions

The town lawyer at the center of a controversy over a lawsuit brought by the new owner of Duryea's in Montauk has departed for parts unknown, but this is hardly the end of the troubling matter. Many questions remain about who knew what when in an improper - and possibly illegal - settlement arrangement he signed.

In January, the Town of East Hampton and Marc Rowan, the billionaire co-founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, quietly settled a lawsuit about the property. Mr. Rowan had up to then unsuccessfully sought town permits for alterations - some say expansion - of a restaurant on the waterfront site, where one Yelp reviewer likened the ambience to St. Tropez and Ibiza. Prices are no longer listed on Duryea's online menu, but the last time we looked, it was $54 for a lobster Cobb salad. So much for the old Montauk, right?

In the settlement draft, it appeared he got nearly everything he wanted. The agreement would also have bound the town to legalize all manner of uses and structures on the property and set hard deadlines for the Building Department and planning boards to play along in allowing waitstaff service at the restaurant, where before only a kind of hybrid takeout system had been permitted.

But there was a problem - a big one. When Michael Sendlenski, then the top town lawyer who has since resigned, ostensibly agreed to the settlement, he had not been authorized to do so by a majority vote of the board. Mr. Sendlenski quit not long after a Feb. 21 board meeting in which he angrily defended himself against an accusation that he had acted improperly. In mid-March, the town hired an outside law firm in an attempt to reverse the settlement with Mr. Rowan, and a judge did that about a month later.

Just how much East Hampton Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc knew in advance about the settlement dealings is not clear. In a sworn affidavit to the court, Mr. Rowan said he had had personal discussions last year with Mr. Van Scoyoc about the property, including one that Councilman David Lys also attended.

In his court statement, Mr. Rowan said Mr. Van Scoyoc was eager to see the issues with Duryea's resolved in Mr. Rowan's favor and suggested that he sue the town to provide political cover for the town board. Not surprisingly, Mr. Van Scoyoc has disputed this account; however, there is no reason to think Mr. Rowan was lying when he signed the affidavit last month in front of a notary public.

This puts the supervisor square in the middle of an improper, if not illegal, set of circumstances that led to the now-on-hold settlement because it is highly unlikely that Mr. Sendlenski acted alone when he signed off on the deal in January. Settlements like this should always have the affirmative authorization of the entire board.

At this point, too little is known about the meeting between the town and Mr. Rowan, as well as how the settlement document came to be. One thing is clear: Both Mr. Van Scoyoc and Mr. Sendlenski look very bad for taking part in this dubious affair, and, at this late date, not coming clean on what actually happened.