08/23/13 2:50pm

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | LIPA workers moving pipe into the tunnel at Crescent Beach to run under the bay bottom to Southold for a new electrical source for the Island.

If there are no unforeseen problems, the Long Island Power Authority will have completed its work and cleaned up the sites on both the Shelter Island and Southold Town sites within 21 to 30 days.

The reward for Shelter Islanders is that if the single existing cable breaks, they shouldn’t expect to be left in the dark. That’s what they were facing after Super Storm Sandy broke a backup cable, leaving the Island with one old cable from Southold and a cable from North Haven that lacked the capability of serving all the electrical needs here.

If you were walking, riding a bicycle or driving anywhere in the area of New York Avenue or Shore Road Friday, you encountered delays and detours. Long Island Power Authority workers started pulling pipes along the roadway and into the tunnel where they would be dragged under the bay bottom to Southold. There was also more than the usual traffic on Prospect Avenue, Nostrand Parkway, Rocky Point Avenue and Sterns Point Road as well as along West Neck Road and parts of Route 114.

New York Avenue and Shore Road are expected to be closed for the next 48 hours, according to an announcement made by the Shelter Island Fire Department Friday afternoon.

The process of slowly pulling the pipes through the tunnel — expected to take at least 24 hours — is the reason for the closures. Because the pipes were being pulled taut, workers were concerned that one could break and fly up causing injury to anyone going by the site.

There are also a number of cranes and other heavy machinery moving around the site.

As the crew prepared the pipes to enter the tunnel Friday morning, they used a “cradle” to lift them so the proper angle for entry could be achieved. The pipes also had to be flooded with water to keep them from rising up in the tunnel and causing friction, according to the workers.

Plans called for the pipes to be stretched through the tunnel to Southold. The next step calls for stretching the electrical cables through and connecting them at both ends and then testing to assure the current is working properly.

“Pulling of the conduit is a huge, huge milestone,” said Nick Lizanich, LIPA vice president of transmission and distribution. “They can only pull so fast,” Mr. Lizanich explained.

When that’s completed, the following couple of days will entail cleanup of terminals at both ends and then pulling electrical cables through the tunnel.

That should take about two weeks, Mr. Lizanich said. The good news for neighbors on both sides of the project is that the operation after this weekend will become much quieter and the digging equipment that has been in place will be moved out while large reels of electric cabling are moved into the area, he said.

Once all the connections are made, tested and secured, LIPA will begin the process of environmental cleanup and restoration, Mr. Lizanich said.

There have been glitches along the way, including drilling that twice proved inadequate before the workers were able to create a workable tunnel. Last week, there were some equipment breakdowns that delayed the process of feeding the pipes through the tunnel, he said.

But watching the work Friday morning it appeared to be going smoothly.

As for businesses in the area, there were detours to reach Sunset Beach, the Perlman Music Program campus, La Maison Blanche, Camp Quinipet and various residences in the area. But a few hikers and bikers found themselves faced with longer treks back to their starting lines Friday morning because of the road closings along Shore Road.

06/26/13 5:00pm

JULIE LANE PHOTO | The future of La Maison Blanche hangs in litigation between the two men who opened the business together in 2010.

The ongoing legal fight between John Sieni and Alistair MacLean over the future of La Maison Blanche took another turn this week.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Whelan’s granting of a cautious preliminary injunction stops Mr. Sieni from dissolving the limited liability corporation the two men formed three years ago to operate the hotel and restaurant.

The corporation, called  JAMSFAB, has a five-year lease to use the property owned by Mr. Sieni’s JBS Properties for the purpose of the business operation.

To dissolve JAMSFAB the court would have to find that it wasn’t practical for the business to continue. That was something the judge said company records didn’t uphold. He also said the operating agreement between the two partners had no provision for expelling a member of the limited liability company.

At the same time, the judge is requiring Mr. MacLean to post $100,000 within 45 days from the June 20 decision with the understanding that if it’s finally determined that he wasn’t entitled to the preliminary injunction, he would be liable for all damages and costs that resulted from its granting.

Various suits and counter suits have been filed by the two men since Mr. Sieni — who owns 70 percent of JAMSFAB to Mr. MacLean’s 30 percent interest — fired his business partner.

The split between the two partners last November was characterized as a “business divorce,”  by Michael Walsh, Mr. Sieni’s attorney.

Mr. Sieni charged in press statements and court papers that Mr. MacLean, as of November 2012, failed to do his job as operating manager of the hotel and restaurant. He said Mr. MacLean failed to report to work to oversee employees, but “occupied a hotel unit with his family, drank and dined with his family on a consistent basis without providing any supervision, work, labor or services to the company.”

He was fired December 12, 2012.

Mr. MacLean subsequently denied all charges while Mr. Sieni maintained the business sustained losses in 2011 and 2012 because of Mr. MacLean. Mr. Sieni sought support from the courts for his action in firing Mr. MacLean.

Despite the firing, Mr. MacLean has maintained he’s still listed as a partner in the business on documents filed in Albany and on the company’s liquor license. On July 15, Mr. Sieni is due to answer questions from the New York State Liquor Authority pertinent to renewing his liquor license that still lists Mr. MacLean as a co-owner of the business.

There were subsequent complaints Mr. Sieni tried to enter into the court record that the judge rejected because of what he said was a faulty amendment to the original petition.

The attempted amendment, referred to in the judge’s decision, charged that since the split between the two, Mr. MacLean had taken other actions aimed at damaging the business, including, “making unsubstantiated complaints” to the Shelter Island Building Inspector alleging zoning code violations; to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services alleging sanitary code violations; and to the Fire Marshall alleging  violations of the state uniform fire prevention and building code regulations.

Both men are claiming elements of victory in the decision and both plan to go forward with pending litigation. They are due back in Supreme Court in Riverhead on August 9 for a preliminary conference on the case Mr. MacLean has filed against Mr. Sieni claiming he was “wrongfully ousted” from the business.

Mr. Sieni has had the building on the market for several months at an asking price of $3.5 million.

But Mr. MacLean maintains no sale can occur because he has a lien against the property. Not so, according to Mr. Walsh, Mr. Sieni’s attorney.

“Perhaps they should do a little more background on who has liens on the property,” Mr. MacLean said. At the same time, he said, “Let them sell the property. I think all parties know that is happening.”

02/11/13 5:29pm

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | La Masion Blanche is for sale for an asking price of $3.5 million.

The building that houses La Maison Blanche, the restaurant and inn whose owners are battling in court, is on the market for $3.5 million.

John Sieni purchased the building 27 months ago through his firm JBS Properties Inc. for $2 million, but has made substantial improvements, according to Shelter Island tax assessor Al Hammond.

While the property is currently assessed at $1.8 million, Mr. Hammond said it’s undergoing a reassessment based on the improvements and the assessment now on the books will go up.

Mr. Sieni emphasized it’s the building, not the business of La Maison Blanche, that’s for sale.

A pending lawsuit with Alistair MacLean, who managed La Maison Blanche until a recent split, wouldn’t stop the sale of the building, Mr. Sieni said. He maintained Mr. MacLean was fired as manager of the inn and restaurant, while Mr. MacLean countered that Mr. Sieni had no authority to fire him. Both men said they’ve been the public face of La Maison Blanche. Mr. MacLean said he had no intention of giving up the business.

“As majority owner in La Maison Blanche, I found it necessary to let Alistair MacLean go,” Mr. Sieni said last week.

Mr. MacLean responded that he’s still listed as a partner in the business on documents filed in Albany and on the liquor license.

“I’m still involved in the business and I’m still a member of the business,” Mr. MacLean said, responding to Mr. Sieni’s statement about having been fired.

Mr. Sieni said he’s not in any rush to turn it over to a new owner. His current plans call for him to continue to operate La Maison Blanche this summer.

“I will run it until the right buyer comes along,” he said.

“La Maison Blanche will be operating full service this season and improving services to even further our reputation,” he added, and expects many staff members to be returning this season.

“Everything is for sale at the right price.” Mr. Sieni said when asked why he’s selling. He called the hotel “an astonishing property in pristine condition” adding it’s a turnkey operation.

When JBS Properties purchased the building in 2011, it was with the intent of operating “one of the Hamptons’ best boutique hotels,” Mr. Sieni said.

02/06/13 2:00pm

JULIE LANE PHOTO | La Maison Blanche will open Valentine’s Day with some changes in staff.

As reported, when La Maison Blanche reopens on Valentine’s Day there will be some changes.

Owner John Sieni will be running the inn and restaurant while partner Alistair MacLean —  although still listed as a partner on documents filed in Albany as well as on the liquor license —  is no longer working at La Maison Blanche, according to Mr. Sieni.

“As a majority owner in La Maison Blanche, I found it necessary to let Alistair go,” Mr. Sieni siad.

“I’m still involved in the business and I’m still a member of the business,” Mr. MacLean said, responding to Mr. Sieni’s statement about having fired him from La Maison Blanche.

“It’s the law according to New York State, not John Sieni,” Mr. MacLean said, reiterating his earlier statement that he remains a partner and his name continues to be on the liquor license for La Maison Blanche’s operation.

The two men are involved in litigation, but haven’t made the details of that litigation public.

Award-winning chef Charles Le Tus, who Mr. MacLean said had left La Maison Blanche, remains as a consultant to the Shelter Island restaurant. Mr. Le Tus is opening a new Manhattan restaurant, Charlemagne, according to Mr. Sieni.

“We are looking forward to an amazing season working with all of the Island businesses as a team to make Islanders and visitors feel welcome,” Mr. Sieni said.

The restaurant will be open from Thursdays through Sundays, 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner with a Happy Hour at the bar will start at 5 p.m. where a separate bar menu will be offered.

The Valentine’s Day prix fixe dinner, including a glass of champagne, will be priced at $40 per person.

10/12/12 8:00am

JULIE LANE PHOTO | “Haunt master” Oscar Gonzalez created many of the props that visitors to La Maison Blanche’s Dark Mansion will encounter. See more photos below.

It’s that creepy time of year when friends and neighbors delight in scaring one another — all in fun, of course. For the second successive year, La Maison Blanche is getting into the act with its Dark Mansion, with proceeds to benefit ongoing research into causes and cures of breast cancer.

As they did last year, owner John Sieni and his partner and “haunt master” Oscar Gonzalez are out to terrify visitors and locals, with most of the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society in memory of Teresa Montant, a former town worker who lost her battle against breast cancer in October 2011. A small amount is kept to reinvest in the expansion of the haunted house.

For those who visited last year, the price is up from $5 to $15, meaning more money will go to breast cancer research, but Mr. Gonzalez wants people to know they’re getting a lot more for their money this year. He has spent much of the past 12 months practically doubling the size of the Dark Mansion. It now encompasses not only the basement of La Maison Blanche, but also a structure he has created that will be temporarily linked to the southwest side of the building to accommodate the many additions to the eerie experience.

If last year’s Dark Mansion was an “amateur” attempt at the macabre, this year’s displays, even when viewed during the day with lights on are fright-inducing. And that’s without the sounds, strobe lights and about a dozen volunteers who will lurk within the recesses of the Dark Mansion ready to jump out and add to the all-together scary experience.

“We target what people fear,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

He isn’t joking when he advises parents not to bring children under the age of 13 and warns those with asthma, heart conditions or seizure disorders not to enter.

The Dark Mansion will be open between 7 and 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday, October 19, 20 and 21 and October 26, 27 and 28.

For the full story on the Dark Mansion, see the Reporter next Thursday.

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