Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren said the pending sale of the home he rents is an intimidation tactic meant to force him from the village — and potentially his elected office — as a result of an ongoing dispute with a predecessor, Mark Epley, an accusation Epley denies.
Warren, 38, who became the youngest mayor in the village’s history when he beat first-term incumbent Michael Irving in June 2019, has publicly clashed with past and current members of the administration since taking office. That includes the family of Epley, who was mayor from 2005 to 2017 and who, Warren said, is poised to buy the David Whites Lane residence he lives in.
“They have a track record of harassing and intimidating me through letters, voicemails, in-person confrontations, and they specifically told me there would be consequences,” Warren said of the Epley family. “And here I am, they are buying the home I live in and have lived in for almost five years.”
The two-story, two-family home was not previously on the market, so Warren said he never made an offer on the property before it was in contract.
Warren said he was told by his landlord, Brandt Portugal, that lawyers representing an anonymous buyer were in contract and wanted to close on the property, which Zillow values at more than $1.5 million, by July 30. Portugal did not respond to requests for comment.
Epley confirmed that he is a principal in 81DW LLC, the buyer, but denied he was targeting Warren. He said he owns the property next door and that the ensuing purchase is purely a real estate investment.
“He can read it any way he wants to, I don’t really care,” Epley said Friday. “This is all about future planning for my family. There are not many legal, multifamily housing opportunities in Southampton.”
Epley said he did not know whether he would evict Warren, whose incumbency and decisions he has criticized, particularly appointments within his administration.
He expressed disappointment that Warren failed to notify him before declining to reappoint his son, Zachary Epley, to the village planning board, although he said their dispute started before then. The younger Epley is also a village board candidate in the upcoming Sept. 15 election.
“You asked to meet with me and in that meeting I tell you the one thing never to do is to mess with my kids,” Epley said in an October voicemail left for Warren that was played for Newsday. “And you did that and you screwed me over. OK. Game on. Game on. Not forgotten. Game on.”
Epley on Friday said he stood by the voicemail, but that it was not connected to the property’s sale.
Epley and three other former mayors chided what they called Warren’s “lack of respect for the office of mayor” in a November letter to the editor of The Southampton Press.
Warren defended his record, ticking off a list of accomplishments in his first year, including raising $500,000 to buy personal protective equipment for medical workers, funding an updated sewer study and establishing an algae harvester pilot program for Lake Agawam.
Village law dictates that only residents can serve on the board. Warren said that if he doesn't have a village address he could immediately be removed from office. He vowed to find another place to live in the village, but said he preferred to stay in his rental.
“I hope they will renew the lease without dramatically raising my rent,” Warren said. “It’s clearly uncomfortable.”