Town should have purchased parcel long ago, owners charge

Amagansett ‘Dust Bowl’ Part Of Bigger Picture

The 33-acre parcel owned by the Bistrians north of Main Street in Amagansett is currently landlocked. The family is feuding with East Hampton Town, stating it is trying to renege on a deal to build an access road to the parcel. Independent/Rick Murphy

“This is exactly what the Community Preservation Fund was created for,” said Barry Bistrian, whose family owns the 33 acres behind Amagansett Main Street, which East Hampton Town has expressed an interest in buying for several years. The field will heretofore become part of town “Dust Bowl” lore.

“They’ve been looking to break into that money for years. Last year they started taking 20 percent out. It’s supposed to be to save the farms,” he added.

No one is disputing that. East Hampton Town officials say the problem is that the Bistrians are asking too much for the land.

Bistrian is being blamed because merchants nearby are complaining the wind is churning topsoil onto and into the stores on Main Street. Though his family owns the property, it is farmed by Peter Dankowski. Whatever the case, a cover crop didn’t take hold, unleashing the nuisance.

“It’s just another way to stir up the hornet’s nest,” Bistrian said.

He said he found it troubling that he is now being blamed for the dust, not only by the merchants, who may not know better, but also by town officials.

A little historical perspective would be helpful, said Bistrian, who was raised in Amagansett.

Almost 50 years ago, the town was looking to shave off some of the farmland behind the stores to create a parking lot. There were a series of transactions and transfers, and lots of hands in the pie.

In 1971, Peter Bistrian, the family patriarch, sold the final piece of the puzzle, 2.3 acres of land to the town for $13,000. The land was used to construct the parking lot that is now behind the stores on the north side of Main Street. The Bistrians contend the town would cede an
access road to them as part of the deal.

Dust is a normal residue of farming. Potato fields ran all the way to Maidstone and Town Lane. There were more than a couple years when they didn’t get cover crops down.

All along, the town has indicated its desire to purchase the land behind Main Street. Meanwhile, the Bistrian stake grew: as parcels became available, the family purchased them to add to its holdings as the town stayed on the sidelines.

“They’ve taken our commercial rights, they’ve upzoned it twice, they’ve taken away our access road,” Bistrian said. What the town won’t do, he charged, is make a fair offer to buy it, leaving the family with only one alternative: develop it.

According to sources, the latest appraisal came in at around $21.5 million. The Bistrians are asking between $32 million and $34 million.

The property is “checkerboarded” between assorted family members — that is, no two congruous parcels are owned by the same entity. That means a dozen or so estate-sized lots, already cleared, are ready to house luxury homes. That makes them valuable on the open market except for one hold-up: the town says there is no access road from the property, meaning it is landlocked.

A front-page article in The East Hampton Star on February 28, 1970, references a discussion wherein then Town Supervisor Eugene E. Lester Jr. acknowledged “a 66-foot right of way that will serve as an exit to Windmill Lane” and another 43-foot right of way that would connect Main Street with the land north of the parking lot.

As recently as 2016, the town attempted to buy development rights to the farm, but was rebuffed. “At no time did the town repudiate the petitioners rights to access Windmill Lane via the road the town had promised to deliver,” a suit filed by the family maintained.

The trouble, for the family, is the courts have yet to concur. Barry Bistrian said the family is trying to shift the venue to Nassau County for a coming appeal.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com