LeRefuge B&B forced to close doors

City Island bed and breakfast Le Refuge closed recently after a dispute with the city regarding zoning at its new location could not be resolved.

A quaint bed and breakfast that was an important part of City Island for over 15 years shuttered its doors for good. The hotel’s management had issues with the NYC Department of Buildings because the B&B’s new location was only zoned for residential purposes.

Le Refuge Inn was originally located in a large home later purchased by former Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. and his family at 620 City Island Avenue between Kilroe and Bridge streets. It was a popular destination since opening in 1992. It relocation in 2004 to the Samuel Pell historic landmark house down the street caused a torrent of trouble. The Samuel Pell House was built in 1876.

It was the move to 586 City Island Avenue that created a DOB problem resulting in over $10,000 in fines for the hotel’s operator, Pierre Saint-Dennis. The new location did not have the proper Certificate of Occupancy to operate a commercial establishment.

DOB received a complaint in October 2006 about the hotel violating the zoning rule that allows for two-family houses at the location. The owner of 586 City Island Avenue is listed as Michelle French.

City Islanders had grown found of the B&B.

“I feel it is a sad day for us to lose such a dynamic partnership between business and community that Le Refuge Inn brought to City Island,” said Bill Stanton, president of the City Island Civic Association. “For me, it brought back memories of City Island as a quaint, boat-building community.”

Stanton feels that the closure of Le Refuge Inn holds other lessons for the community.

“Le Refuge helped create a positive tenor and tone for City Island,” Stanton said. “While I am forced to accept the closing because of the landmark and zoning rules, I would hope that the sacrifice of this asset would serve as a greater point in comparison to unscrupulous developers who skirt every zoning rule.”

Whatever the reason for the closure, there is no denying that Saint-Denis created a unique dining experience at the B&B. Pierre turned the eatery and hotel into a Zagat-rated point of destination that was praised in reviews by The New York Times, Daily News, and Long Island Press.

Saint-Denis is an award winning chef who has catered to celebrities like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

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