House in The Hamptons
Long Island, NY
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"A long time ago, in galaxy far, far away".....we started what became the most challenging build we have undertaken in quite some time.
For a myriad of reasons.....here goes.
It was actually Jan 9th, 2013 that the Bethel Mills delivery arrived and just after Memorial Day that we left....wiser, older and worn out but grateful to have built a magnificent house under at times highly adverse circumstances. Let's begin with the weather....starting late in the middle of winter as opposed to the early fall target date when our industrious clients were unable to find a local GC...a process that dragged out for months until they (she, actually) decided to go for it on her own....a gutsy call indeed.... :-\
Shortly after going vertical Long Island was battered by one of the worst winter storms in their history and the crew hunkered down to ride it out and then spent the better part of a week shoveling out and dealing with its aftermath--and this was only the first of three....but at least it was the worst. The Long Island public works were atrocious--two weeks later there were still 6" sheets of ice (actually compacted snow) that created ruts deeper than the clearances on my Volvo. The 45' articulating man lift became a far greater challenge to navigate on the ice and snow and subsequent mud--forcing us to use sheets of Advantech to create stable rights of way on the tortuously narrow property.
Our second major challenge was developing solutions to the requirement of building a hip roof to accommodate the local (and notorious) "triangle law"....which enjoins that a building cannot be closer to its property line than its highest point....so the only way to position the house and join it to the existing cottage was to completely redesign the roof system....which created subsequent implications too numerous to mention related to venting, insulating and (horrors!) actually sheathing the entire system instead of our roofer user friendly purlins. As tempting as it was to stay with our normal MO I am proud that we took the much more expensive but foolproof route of an unvented and sheathed system--even though it cost us an additional out of pocket $10K.
The third major obstacle was logistical. Getting ourselves and our deliveries there requires crossing the Long Island Sound via ferry--and the traffic is horrendous once in the Hampton's...miles and miles of arguably some of the fastest and most expensive vehicles in the world stuck in bumper to bumper traffic--where the Ferrari's and Aston Martin's and Bentley's crawl slower than the ubiquitous bicycles. One marvelous episode evolved out of the stressful supply chain scenario....
We decided to order our roofing directly from the local Riverhead Building Supply--with whom a good word from Lang Durfee at Bethel Mills secured me instant credit. The roofing company inexplicably forgot our order and left it on the dock when the NY truck took off--and even though I forcefully argued and Riverhead sent it way up their chain of command the vendor callously told us, "TOUGH LUCK", and that we would have to wait until next week even though I had a made this trip down and secured extra crew for the roofing marathon. Riverhead was mortified and I was livid. The fact that I have roofed over 200 of our buildings with their great product and spent well over $1M on them only added to my sense of injustice.....so I did what I never usually do and hired a "hit man".....but this time far more effective than assassin.... :-P ....
Lang had told me he was a friend of Riverhead's director of purchasing--and that they were both on the board of a buying group spanning 3/4 of the country. Between Bethel Mills and Riverhead and their multi-billion dollar co-op organization--representing over 4000 dealers--they quietly but forcefully informed the roofing manufacturer that their neglecting to do the right thing and make their mistake right would not be tolerated.....and two days later the roofing showed up at our door! I reflected how good it felt to once in a while wield amazing power through others--with a sobering cautionary caveat not to let it feel too good lest I lose perspective. I had a good cry afterward and thanked God for the good people who love and support us--primarily due to Bethel Mills' generosity in sharing their business with other fine vendors for our benefit.
The last and final challenge was a lot more painful....and ultimately became a watershed in my faith and test of my integrity. Our clients had become increasingly anxious over the number of overages (very few to do with us) and at the prospect of being left high and dry with an unfinished building a long way away from where they lived and discouraged at a number of delays--some our fault, some the weather, and many related to other trades and an increasingly compressed schedule coming into the summer rental season. While their fear was understandable--it put a lot of pressure on us--exacerbated by significant delays in payment to the point where we could not go forward. These are good people--but caught up in stress and fear--and I simply could not continue doing business under such adversarial circumstances--so I went down to pull the crew although I was committed to finishing the shell at my expense regardless as a point of honor and love for the project.
In the midst of this they hired a private inspector to either find out everything that could be wrong or to reassure themselves otherwise--that all was well--which made good sense. After a thorough inspection he presented a very short list of mostly minor items that were simply unfinished details and part of our wrap up. In the middle of his brief presentation he interrupted himself and looked at them and said while he did not even know who I was and that he was simply an objective third party doing his job--that in all his career as an inspector he had never seen a finer built building.....at that moment a balm to the sadness in my soul. I sat there silent while a flood of tears welled up inside--because ultimately nothing else truly mattered.
Without any elaboration--things took a radical turn for the better the next morning with our clients choosing to trust us again and making things right--enabling us to complete our passionate mission with some restored joy in the midst of our exhaustion. Matthew--our lead sub on the project--never gave up and persevered and left a legacy that we will never forget....knowing we were able to leave with peaceful hearts having stayed the course.
I am thankful beyond words to him, the crew, our clients, and everyone who encouraged us along the way on a journey that went through some hell on the way to a bit of heaven in the Hamptons.