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East Hampton Town Agrees To Buy Nivola Land In Springs

Originally Posted: November 23, 2009

Katy Gurley

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This stretch of Old Stone Highway in the Springs runs along one side of the 27-acre piece of property the town is considering buying with Community Preservation Funds. Photos by Katy Gurley

East Hampton - Twenty-seven acres of bucolic woodlands off Old Stone Highway in Springs, which belongs to the family of the late sculptor Costantino Nivola and his late wife Ruth, will be sold to the Town of East Hampton for just over $3 million. The town will pay for the property, which was once farmland belonging to generations of the Miller family, from the Community Preservation Fund (CPF), which is funded by a two percent real estate transfer tax.

Scott Wilson, director of land acquisition and management for the town.

The property is adjacent to a Town Preserve with a trail off of Neck Path, which runs perpendicular to Old Stone Highway. The lands to be acquired by the Town include beautiful woods, a trail and a 19th century Bennett family grave. The town will acquire the property in three parcels over three years, the first one scheduled to close at the end of December, according to Scott Wilson, director of land acquisition and management for the town.

"It is also one of a handful of large tracts of land left in East Hampton that would be preserved," he said.

"The property represents important open space, woodland habitat, aquifer protection, and scenic frontage along Old Stone Highway, as well as density reduction for Springs and expansion of an existing Town Preserve," said Sara Gordon, project manager for the Peconic Land Trust, which is facilitating the sale.

The 1700s Nivola farmhouse and some adjacent land is not part of the sale and will be retained by Claire and Pietro Nivola, daughter and son of Costantino and Ruth.

The current four town board members have long supported the acquisition and voted for it on Friday, November 20.

Pietro Nivola, property owner, addresses the town board.

At a hearing that Friday before the board on the proposed sale, Pietro Nivola said that preserving property was long a dream of his, his sister's, and their parents.
"Our family has owned this property for over 50 years. "I went to Springs School here, and my parents mostly lived here year-round," he said. "Saving this land is part of an effort that really began in the 1990s. And we are grateful to our friends and neighbors who have supported us."

Several people spoke in favor of the acquisition and only one person, who identified himself as John Talmage, spoke out against it. "Before this acquisition goes forward, stop. Stop spending money and running in the dark," he said. There would be plenty of time for such acquisitions when the town straightens out its financial problems, he said.

The son of a Sardinian stonecutter, Costantino Nivola, who was born in 1911 and died in 1988, specialized in architectural decoration, graphic design, and sculpture. After graduating from art school in Milan in the early 1930s, Nivola became an art director for the Italian typewriter-manufacturing firm Olivetti. As World War II approached, he and his wife, Ruth, immigrated to the United States. It was there that he was introduced to the New York School of artists. In 1948, he and Ruth moved to Springs and bought the farmhouse, and eventually, the 27 acres surrounding it. He found himself hosting other important artists and figures of that period of the late 1940s and 1950s, including James Brooks, Le Corbusier, Willem de Kooning, Frederick Kiesler, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Hans Namuth, and Jackson Pollock.

Also during that time, Nivola revived a sand-casting technique for freestanding and shallow relief sculpture.

"Nivola's sculpture from the 1960s to the end of his life tends to evoke such natural or fabricated sites of human interaction as the beach or the capacious bed. Their semi-abstract realization in terra-cotta, bronze, or other durable media is replete with a sense of poignant existential fragility," writes Gregory Galligan on the Parrish Museum of Southampton's website.

Ruth Nivola, who died last year, was also an artist in her own right, and was well-known among friends and family for her jewelry creations.

Ruth and Costantino are the grandparents of the actor Alessandro Nivola, perhaps best known for his roles in the films, "Coco Before Chanel," "Best Laid Plans," "Jurassic Park III," "Face/Off," and the first two movies of the "Goal! trilogy. Alessandro, whose father is Pietro Nivola, lives in Amagansett and New York.

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Guest (ken dawg) from amagansett says::
looks like all the sweetheart deals need to get finished before the new soup and the rest of the board take over.run rats run get what you can
Nov 24, 2009 6:03 pm

Guest (Lynne W. Scanlon) from East Hampton says::
An excellent article. While agree that the town should be pinching pennies, 27 acres for a little over three million dollars is a steal. A big thank you to the Nivolas.
Nov 23, 2009 4:50 pm


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