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A Gold Coast Jewel Gets a Second Life

Paula Chin in Bricks & Bucks

Long Island

Yacht Club Lighthouse

The structure atop the restored lighthouse (image via Fairfield Properties)

The Legend Yacht & Beach Club (LYBC), a sprawling, 47-unit gated community in Glen Cove, Long Island, was built in 2001 on the site of Pembroke Estate, a French neoclassical wedding cake of a mansion that was demolished. This homeowners association had inherited a unique historical landmark from the Gatsby-era palace – a 70-foot water tower enclosed in a masonry structure designed to look like a lighthouse.

It lent the enclave, which is located on a high knoll overlooking the Long Island Sound, a nostalgic coastal charm, but the lighthouse had deteriorated over the decades. Then came Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “It blew out a majority of the windows, which let rainwater in and caused even more structural damage, and caused issues with the terra cotta roofing tiles,” says managing agent Virginia Manning, of Fairfield Properties.

LYBC’s board wanted to restore the building, but there was a financial hurdle. While repair estimates hovered around $175,000, their insurance company paid out just $98,000 after Sandy – only $71,000 of which was earmarked for the lighthouse. “The balance would have to come from our reserve fund,” says board president Cynthia Lovecchio. “We had built up a significant reserve account, but that amount was not doable for us.”

Determined to cut the cost of the lighthouse project, Lovecchio and her four fellow board members discovered that as much as $50,000 of the bids was related to scaffolding – and that a crane would be a much smarter option.

By the time they negotiated a $128,000 price tag from E & J Construction in Glen Cove, however, they faced another quandary. “It was almost winter, and we were concerned that the winds might kick up or we’d get a foot-and-a-half of snow and repairs would be held up for months,” Lovecchio says. “The crane would still cost us $5,000 a day.”

Should the board take the risk? “We eventually worked out a deal that was more expensive, but capped out our charges,” Lovecchio says. “Even so, there was a lot of hesitancy. It’s one thing to know what you have to do, but it’s hard to commit to a big expenditure and execute it. But finally the majority of the board were convinced that the repairs had to be done or the lighthouse would deteriorate into ruin.”

The renovations in January went smoothly. “The biggest challenge was the height and access,” says E & J owner Ernest DiVincenzo. “We got a crane with a ‘manbasket,’ a 4-by-8-foot platform that lifted materials, and the guys worked off it.”

The six-man crew had to repair the tile roof, replace six casement windows and a double French door on the lighthouse’s turret, as well as install new copper gutters and re-solder the copper cladding over the turret’s wood-frame walls. “To keep costs down, the rotted windows on the sides of the building were covered with plexiglass to make them watertight,” DiVincenzo adds. “Thanks to some good luck with Mother Nature, we finished the job in 12 days, right on schedule.”

The homeowners couldn’t be happier. “There were absolutely no complaints, which is remarkable for a community this size — and trust me, this is a very vocal community,” says Lovecchio. “The lighthouse had become an eyesore and a liability, but now it looks absolutely beautiful. We’ve even retained E & J to do more work.”

She adds, “The lesson we learned is that boards should shop around for the best deal and bite the bullet when it comes to major projects. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone and dive in instead of being intimidated.”

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – MANAGEMENT: Virginia Manning of Fairfield Properties. CONTRACTOR: E & J Construction.

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