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Nov 13, 2015 3:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

'Legs' Sculpture In Sag Harbor Village To Come Down

The controversial
Nov 17, 2015 3:46 PM

The controversial Larry Rivers “Legs” sculpture must come down, according to a new court ruling.

After a legal battle stretching back several years, it appears the Village of Sag Harbor will finally get its way, thanks to a recent decision by State Supreme Court Justice James Hudson. The decision states that the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals in 2012 “properly found that the sculpture was a structure” and was therefore subject to the same regulations as a structure under the zoning code.

The decision notes that it is not the job of the court to determine whether a determination was correct, but that it is its duty to find a “rational basis” for the ZBA decision and to ensure it was not “arbitrary or capricious.”

The judge found that both the zoning board and the building inspector did, in fact, interpret the village zoning code on a rational basis such that “their decisions should not be disturbed.”

Ruth Vered and Janet Lehr, the owners of the 16-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture of a pair of female legs by the artist Mr. Rivers, had it installed on their corner property on Madison Street, which is in the historic district, without a building permit in 2008. Many nearby property owners were opposed to the sculpture because of its size and location, although Ms. Vered said this week that those property owners have since sold their houses.

In 2012, the zoning board denied numerous variance requests on the part of the owners, including one that would have legalized the 
“Legs” and allowed them to stay on the property, just 1 foot from the property line, where the code requires a 35-foot setback.

The attorney for Ms. Vered and Ms. Lehr, Stephen Grossman, argued that the sculpture was solely a work of art and thus the zoning code should not apply to it.

However, the court’s decision states that the ZBA does not have the authority to determine what is art. “That is a question philosophers from Plato to Arthur Danto have debated, and is best left to their province,” the decision reads. Nevertheless, the ZBA in 2012 received more than 400 signatures, as well as letters and emails, from people who argued that the sculpture was in fact a work of art.

On Monday, Ms. Vered said that “every newspaper,” including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, supported the sculpture as art and as a form of expression covered under the First Amendment of the Constitution. “He should be supporting freedom of speech and the right of expression, and he is going against the American law, the American rules,” Ms. Vered said in response to the justice’s decision. “The freedom of expression is a part of our constitution, and he should know it better than I do.”

Yet Justice Hudson’s decision claims that Ms. Vered and Ms. Lehr did not establish that the ZBA had violated their civil rights—specifically the right to free speech and expression—by its interpretation of the zoning code and the application of it to the sculpture.

The decision further notes that the zoning code was found to be content-neutral, because all structures in the village are treated the same. According to the Constitution, content-neutral laws are allowed to restrict the “time, place and manner” of speech, as long as they are “narrowly tailored” and serve a “significant governmental interest.” The information itself, or its expression—in this case, the sculpture—had not been restricted, only the way it was communicated, as the issue at hand for the ZBA was that the sculpture was placed in an inappropriate location, the judge found. The significant governmental interest here is said to be to “control the orderly and appropriate placement of structures within the village,” he said.

Ms. Vered said she is not done fighting and she will do “everything” she can to keep the sculpture standing.

“Hopefully, they will come down voluntarily,” Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr., said of the “Legs.” “If not, the village could bring an enforcement action.”

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Good riddance to that vile repulsive thing and the defiance that erected it
By joe hampton (3461), southampton on Nov 14, 15 8:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
So now property rights do not suit you?

By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Nov 16, 15 6:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
That hideous thing should never have been allowed in the first place
By widow gavits (219), sag harbor on Nov 14, 15 1:00 PM
Welcome to the People's Republic of Sag Harbor.

Ladies, please know that your neighbors support you and your right to property, free expression and your pursuit of happiness.

Stand YOUR ground. Take this to the Supreme Court.

By TedNugent (5), Sagaponack on Nov 14, 15 1:00 PM
Oh please come off of it you all freaked out last week when someone put a fence over their property line and wanted to hang them from a tree. now that these two women decide they can put up this hideous display for attention and call it art, all of a sudden you're talking about property rights lol
By widow gavits (219), sag harbor on Nov 14, 15 1:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
In the village of Sag Harbor you cant have a fence in your front yard over 32 inches but what you can have is a 17 foot pair of legs a foot away from the sidewalk.

LOL what a bunch of hypocritical loons
By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Nov 14, 15 2:59 PM
Such a stupid fuss over nothing. It is a damn sculpture. Vered is a whiney pain the neck but who cares about her damn sculpture! If she wants the thing next to her house let her have it. Fred Thiele is a rational person, he can't possibly think this something that needs to be fought over more.
By em (51), sagaponack on Nov 14, 15 2:10 PM
Joe Hampton, dont be such a jackhole. Vile and repulsive? A sculpture of a pair of legs? I think you're being a bit dramatic girlfriend.
By em (51), sagaponack on Nov 14, 15 2:16 PM
I for one, loved those legs when they were in Southampton, I’d gladly put them on my front lawn.
By alhavel (50), Hampton Bays on Nov 15, 15 6:41 AM
I think it was perfect and something unique, very fitting for Sag Harbor.
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Nov 15, 15 8:44 AM
I like the legs. Thought they gave the corner a little excitement. I do agree that they were artwork-not a structure. How sad that so much money and time has been spent on such rivalry.
By peacemaker (23), Sag Harbor on Nov 15, 15 4:58 PM
Really ? well my 10 foot high deer fence is art as well

I call it

" Tribute to a Prison Camp "

So now I can leave It up ?
By 27dan (2854), Shinnecock Hills on Nov 15, 15 10:33 PM
Just put a pair of waders on them and we'll all be happy.
By country joe (60), sag harbor on Nov 17, 15 4:35 PM
Just donate them to the parish and be done with it
By Bowwowoogie (2), Southampton on Nov 18, 15 10:10 PM
Just donate them to the parish and be done with it
By Bowwowoogie (2), Southampton on Nov 18, 15 10:10 PM