Actor Robert De Niro is seeking to tear down and rebuild his Montauk beach house because of cracks in the foundation and the home’s “poor structural condition,” his representative recently said.
De Niro has applied for a natural resources special permit from the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals to demolish his 2,278-square-foot house on Old Montauk Highway and replace it with a 2,554-square-foot residence.
Because the house in the Hither Hills section of Montauk was built in the 1950s before zoning laws were enacted, De Niro needs setback variances of 70 and 75 feet from the base of a bluff to rebuild in the same footprint as the current foundation, which is “not really stable anymore,” De Niro’s attorney Richard Whelan said.
“The replacement of the house is necessary,” Whelan said at a Sept. 26 public hearing.
De Niro sat in the audience as his representatives presented to the board, but he did not speak publicly during the meeting.
His application comes nearly 20 years after De Niro unsuccessfully sued the town in 1998 following the zoning board’s decision to deny his plan to add more than 4,000 square feet onto the house.
De Niro also applied in 2015 to build about 3,800 square feet in combined alterations, but that project did not go forward, according to a building permit that was approved in October 2015 and renewed until next month.
Whelan said they had to change plans because some features of the alterations would not have been approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The currently proposed project would add one bedroom and another story to the three-bedroom, one-story house.
Town officials and De Niro’s representatives noted the property’s features created difficulties in planning, citing the environmentally sensitive location, the steep change in elevation across it, and the serpentine driveway that crosses two other properties.
Brian Frank, the town’s chief environmental analyst, said officials usually require homeowners seeking redevelopment to move the home farther from the water because of the “heightened awareness of sea level rise and the importance of coastal resiliency.” But doing so for De Niro’s house would require “cutting into the hillside” above the house, he said.
“The house does have some unique constraints,” Frank said.
Zoning board members said they want to see plans for the construction protocol before moving forward with the application. Another public hearing on the property has not yet been scheduled.