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May 24, 2011 3:55 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Legs Not Legal But Might Still Have Life

May 24, 2011 4:37 PM

SAG HARBOR—The Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals last week denied a request to legalize a sculpture of a woman’s legs by well-known artist Larry Rivers, which has adorned the side of a house owned by gallery owner Ruth Vered along Madison Street—but the denial might actually pave the way for the oversized artwork to remain at the building for the foreseeable future.

The board issued an official denial of the application last week but did so largely because Ms. Vered and a friend who had been representing her before the board had offered to make a number of changes to the property if the sculpture was allowed to remain, according to board chairwoman Gayle Pickering. The changes, including lowering the height of the sculptured legs and designating that it would be left in place only for a fixed period of time, meant that a new application would have to filed, Ms. Pickering said.

“We will allow—or we can consider, actually—a temporary variance for this particular piece,” Ms. Pickering said. “We’re not opposed to the legs, per se. We’re opposed to setting a precedent of allowing structures on the property line.”

A village building inspector ruled last year that the 16-foot-tall white legs, which are mounted at the side of Ms. Vered’s cavernous white house, must be considered a structure and would need a variance from the ZBA to remain. Ms. Pickering said that in the original letter to the board requesting a variance, Ms. Vered referred to the legs as a temporary structure, but that the application for a handful of variances treated them as a permanent accessory to the house. If the sculpture were declared a temporary installation, the precedent of it being placed on the edge of Ms. Vered’s property would not potentially weigh on future applications for structures that the board does not want to see placed on a property line, like a shed or garage. A temporary variance also would not allow the sculpture to remain were the property ever to be sold.

Ms. Vered, contacted at her East Hampton gallery this week, said she was uninterested in the ZBA opinion and didn’t want the sculpture at her house anymore.

“I’m sick and tired of being chased by the town and everything—I don’t want it anymore! I’m done with it!” she screamed in her thick European accent during a brief phone interview. “I don’t want to hear about it anymore—it’s a boring subject.”

Ms. Vered had been arrested three years ago by East Hampton Village Police for serving wine during a public showing at her gallery without possessing a liquor license.

The village’s treatment of the sculpture as an accessory structure that had to comply with zoning rules raised debate in the decidedly artsy Sag Harbor community about whether the sculpture should be compared with a common utility like a tool shed.

Only one person, a neighbor of Ms. Vered, expressed any objection to the presence of the oversized legs.

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