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Steinhardts' Bamboo Sculpture Rankles Neighbors In Bedford

Artist Mike Starn speaks at the Bedford Planning Board's meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Patti Isaacs speaks at the Bedford Planning Board's meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Left to right: Mike Starn and brother Doug Starn. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. -- A bamboo art sculpture installed on the property of two prominent Bedford residents, Michael and Judy Steinhardt, was met with frustration by a neighboring couple at a recent Planning Board meeting.

Patti and Leigh Isaacs, who live near the sculpture, which is part of the a series called "Big Bambú," voiced concerns at the meeting about construction, structural safety and the lack of a special permit.

The Steinhardts, who already received a building permit for the mostly completed structure, must obtain a special permit from the Planning Board because it exceeds 20 feet.

The installed version of Big Bambú will be accessible to the public up to 39 feet and have bamboo going as high as 52 feet, it was noted.

The sculpture is from brothers Mike and Doug Starn. They have installed similar work for the series at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and for the set of a movie adaptation of Noah's Ark that starred Russell Crowe, according to remarks and submitted information. The brothers were present at the meeting to answer questions.

People will be able to go inside Big Bambú, Mike Starn said.

Michael Steinhardt had an active hedge fund industry career and became a philanthropist, according to his biography with the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life. He has also opened his estate to fellow Bedford resident Martha Stewart , showing animals including lemurs and an emu.

Animals on Steinhardt's estate will not be near the bamboo sculpture, Hayes told Daily Voice.

The sculpture is on a 5.557-acre parcel off of Haines Road. Town records show that it is one of six parcels the Steinhardts own in the area. Their total estate size is nearly 129 acres, according to records. The property with the sculpture does not have a house on it.

Patti Isaacs also took issue with some other construction that has been happening at the estate in recent years, including installation of water catch basins and land excavation. She also described construction noise at the sculpture site as being incessant and happening several days a week.

“We cannot entertain guests or enjoy our pool as Mr. Steinhardt can enjoy his because of the constant ‘beep, beep, beep’ and heavy equipment noise.”

Isaacs also called for the board to reject the special permit.

Representatives for the Steinhardts denied that anything intentionally wrong was done. Property manager Jason Hayes recalled that the town's building department was consulted and asked about permitting needed. The structure's pole heights were also disclosed, he added.

The sculpture will not be open to the general public, a representative said. The Steinhardts open another area of their estate in collaboration with a garden conservancy organization.

Mike Starn defended the sculpture's structural integrity.

“It’s not something that’s just tied together with rubber bands and bungie cords. It’s very, very strong.”

Scott Hughes, whose firm has been involved with the sculpture's structural integrity, said that it has anchor bolts keeping it tied into rock below. He also said the structure is redundant because each bamboo pole is tied to several others.

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