In an attempt to rid the town of an “eyesore,” town officials unlawfully pressured a landowner into demolishing a property, even after a stoppage in demolition was issued, according to a Suffolk Grand Jury report released Tuesday.
According to the 42-page report, the Grand Jury found that the demolition at the property, listed as “Commercial Parcel A,” was done in “a dangerous and unacceptable manner” and done with "an utter disregard for the well-being of local citizens, in particular those residents living next to Commercial Parcel A."
Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio confirmed that the property identified in the report was Nassau Suffolk Lumber and Supply Company across from Town Hall, property that was partially knocked down in 2009.
The property, according to the report, contained asbestos. However, the report said no criminality was found in the events that transpired.
That property was owned by North Fork Management and Maintenance, helmed by East Hampton resident Salvatore DiCarlo, according to a 2009 New York Times report.
It's a property that , a major source of contention among locals who have flocked to Patch with concerns over blight in the community.
Names of the town officials and the land developer were not listed in the report; instead letters were used to identify each party involved.
The developer of the property, listed in the report as “Developer A,” received a handwritten, unsolicited tax map chart from a town official, listed in the report as “Town Employee C,” which showed a tax reduction of more than $40,000 if the land were vacant, according to the report. The report stated that Developer A received less than the $40,000 in savings.
Following being notified of the potential tax reduction, the report states that the developer was issued a stop work order. Shortly thereafter, “Town Official A” attempted to persuade Developer A to continue the demolition, saying, “Yeah, what’s the big deal? You get a summons," according to the report.
However, no demolition was done following the conversation.
The grand jury made 17 recommendations that include the town adopt a Board of Site Plan Review independent of the town board members, for local homeowners to be given notification of work performed on nearby commercial property with a set period of time to respond to the notice, to amend town code that would force employees to notify the correct town department if they have knowledge of wrongdoing, and to let go any public official who engages in misconduct, malfeasance or nonfeasance while in public office.
The grand jury also recommended that contractors performing demolition or construction without having permits verified to be prevented from receiving municipal contracts, and if work is performed without proper town permits that the town should petition the county to revoke the contractor’s license.
Planning Department Director Frank DeRubeis was not available for comment by time of publication.
The developer was fined $3,500, though the taxes on the property did drop by $4,000 after the demolition.