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Southampton to reopen bids for African American museum, citing 'defective workmanship' by contractor

Brenda Simmons, executive director of the Southampton African

Brenda Simmons, executive director of the Southampton African American Museum, outside the unfinished building in September. Credit: Newsday/Vera Chinese

Southampton Town is again seeking bids to complete its African American history museum following what the town called “defective workmanship” by the original contractor for the long-awaited project.

A fall 2019 completion date for the Southampton African American Museum, which would honor and commemorate the black community’s contributions to the village, was expected when the project broke ground in summer 2018. Renovation of the building — a former African American barber shop and beauty parlor on North Sea Road — remains incomplete, and no opening date has been set.

The town board voted 5-0 at its Dec. 10 meeting to once again seek proposals to complete the project. A walk-through of the building for potential bidders is scheduled for Jan. 7, and bids are due Jan. 22.

In March 2018, William Proefriedt, 58, of Bay Shore, was awarded a $786,112 contract from Southampton Town under his firm's name, William G. Prophy LLC, to renovate the structure.

Work began in July 2018, but the town said Proefriedt violated the contract and said it would no longer pay him. In an April 16 letter, town attorney James Burke cited defective workmanship, failure to provide properly skilled workers, failure to use approved subcontractors and failure to comply with a Suffolk County septic system permit among the reasons for withholding payments.

Proefriedt contends his subcontractors were approved and said faulty construction plans caused the slipshod work. He estimates the town still owes him $200,000.

“I was following the plans. The plans had faults,” he said.

The town had previously paid him $396,000 for the work and is negotiating his final payment, Burke said.

Southampton African American Museum director Brenda Simmons could not be reached for comment, but she said previously that she has worked for 15 years to bring the project to fruition and was frustrated by the latest delay.

Proefriedt is also facing a felony criminal charge of falsifying documents in his bid to restore the nearby home of the late Pyrrhus Concer, a prominent 19th century Southampton Village resident and a former slave turned whaler. He has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court March 20.

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