Dan’s Long Wharf: I Bought Long Wharf for Double What the Village Offered

It was reported last week in The Sag Harbor Express that the County is very close to making a deal that would result in the sale of Long Wharf to the Village of Sag Harbor.

You might have thought that shouldn’t be happening because the Long Wharf, the treasure of that community, was already owned by the Village of Sag Harbor, but you would be wrong about that. For many years after it was built in 1771, right through to around 1934, in the middle of the Depression, the wharf DID belong to the village. But not any more.

The Wharf was the scene of two battles in two different wars. During the Revolution, the rebels surprise attacked a British munitions depot on the wharf in the middle of the night, burned the depot and made off with many redcoat prisoners. During the War of 1812, American Militiamen confronted the British trying to land on Long Wharf and burn down the town. The British actually did get a foothold on the wharf, but cannon fire beat them off after an hour. It was quite a dramatic fight. The Wharf of course was also the very center of everything during the years when Sag Harbor was a whaling town. More than 100 ships were docked at or near the wharf at the height of whaling in the 1840s.

By the time the Depression came, however, Sag Harbor was suffering mightily and the village could no longer afford to do the necessary maintenance to keep the wharf in good order. As a result, the Village fathers appealed to the County of Suffolk to take it over for them, and the County did so in exchange for the ownership of the wharf and $1.

In many ways now, the situation is reversed. The Village is thriving again. But the County is in bad financial shape. And so the County and the Village are deep in negotiations to have the wharf sold back to the Village for $1. The point people in all this are County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Village Mayor Brian Gilbride. The Trustees of Sag Harbor and the County Legislature have weighed in on this too.

In spite of what The Sag Harbor Express says in its headline, however, it does seem that the possibility of the sale still is a bit shaky. (It’s IMPOSSIBLY shaky as a matter of fact, which I will get to in a moment). The County first offered up the Wharf last year, and the Village said they’d take it, but only on the condition that the County bring the wharf up to tip top condition and agree to continue to maintain it. The County then balked and took it off the market. Then they met again this fall for a second try and that failed. And now there is this third try.

Personally, because I think there is a whole lot of hot air going back and forth, I have stepped in, actually swooped in, in secret, and after brief negotiations have bought Long Wharf myself out from under the Village’s nose. I know this comes as a shock to you.

County Legislator Schneiderman made me swear that I would keep this sale under my hat until he has had a chance to smooth things over with Mayor Gilbride and back out gracefully, but frankly I am just too excited to keep all this a secret.

It was not easy to make this happen. I offered half again more than the Village was willing to pay. But my initial offer of $1.50 was turned down, in spite of the fact that this was half again more than the Village was willing to pay. Legislator Schneiderman said they would take nothing less than $3 for the wharf. When I pointed out that this was TRIPLE what the Village would pay, he relented and entered into a little bargaining. They say that a good deal only happens when both sides feel slightly unhappy with the outcome. And that is the case here. I overpaid for the wharf. I paid $2 for it, exactly DOUBLE what my nearest competitor offered. Had it been more than that I would have backed out. Schneiderman however apparently sensed that. On the other hand, he sensed that he couldn’t turn this amount down. And so we shook hands at $2. And we signed the papers over dinner at the American Hotel later that evening.

My plans for the Wharf are simple. I intend to make it the biggest tourist attraction on eastern Long Island rivaled only by the Big Duck in Flanders, though in the end, you will see that the Wharf will blow the Duck straight out of the water for the bragging rights to that designation.

Long Wharf, after a short pause next month for “renovations,” will be re-opened to the public, but only after you pass through the door of a 10-foot tall wood stockade barrier fence (decorated with scenes from the wharf’s history) and only for a trip on the trolley. That is to say, there will no longer be pedestrians allowed on the wharf. It is too dangerous, and people can and have simply unintentionally walked off the end of it, for example Christopher Valentine, age 56 of Parsippany, New Jersey, either walked or fell off the wharf not long ago and drowned. A great tragedy.

So there will be the trolley. Just inside the door, there will be a turnstile and booth where from the booth lady you can buy tickets at five bucks each to be able to ride the trolley. The trolley, which I have already purchased from Six Flags in Jackson, New Jersey, will have  up in front of five wooden benches, a conductor in a cap and coat manning a steering wheel and a cute front that has a lantern and rubberized skirt made to look like a choo choo train’s “cow catcher” to keep the “cows” at bay. You get on the trolley, for another five bucks a person, (the first $5 was just to GET you to the trolley) and you go once around the wharf on the narrow gauge tracks that you may have noticed are now being affixed to the top of the wharf as we speak. The tracks make a big horseshoe. You go out the right side of the wharf the whole 300 feet very slowly, keeping your hands and feet inside the trolley, and the conductor presses a button and out of a loud speaker a recorded sailing captain’s voice will give you a brief description of the history of Long Wharf together with the sound of harpoons being fired, whales “blowing” and slapping their tails and blubber being bubbled off in hot vats aboard the whaling ships to melt down to whale oil. The trolley will slowly come around the horseshoe when it reaches the very end of the wharf—you’ll have a brief glimpse of the jetty entrance to the Harbor—and then you’ll be on your way back home, to get off where you got on, so the next group can go out and have a look. The ride is pretty quick actually—you know about the short attention spans of people these days—so you will be back on “dry land” before you know it.

This is the plan for what will be happening at Long Wharf, now named Captain Dan’s Long Wharf, during the day. At night, the Long Wharf will be closed entirely—there might be muggers or other nefarious fellows about—and so just in case it will be brightly lit all night in bright colors like the Empire State Building, a different color for each day (night) of the week to both protect it from robbers and give it it’s due as the great centerpiece tourist attraction it will have become.

Of course, I don’t mean to close Long Wharf every day of the year. There will be three days a year when I will allow Long Wharf to be open to strollers. For free. These are the days we will be doing maintenance on the trolley anyway—it has to be done every 10,000 miles or 6 months whichever comes first—and on those days, the Saturday of HarborFest in the summertime, the Saturday of HarborFrost in the wintertime and on the date of the Fourth of July whichever day it falls upon, Long Wharf will be free, after they have signed the waiver, to all to walk upon as it had been before I bought it. I’m really not such a bad guy.

You’re going to love Dan’s Long Wharf.

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