The Town of Oyster Bay on Tuesday won a State Appeals Court case allowing it to shut down operations at an industrial complex located on the Liberty superfund site in Farmingdale.
South Farmingdale's Truck 8 places its ladder pipe into the heart of the flames, during a fire at the Liberty industrial park last Tuesday. The incident exposed town officials to building code violations which they cited in an emergency shutdown of operations there. -Photo by Harry Loud
The ruling by the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn was the latest in a legal battle between the operators and the town sparked by the town's emergency shutdown of the complex last week. The town evoked emergency powers to close the operations last Thursday after a pallet fire there last Tuesday gave officials the opportunity to view numerous building code violations, according to Town Supervisor John Venditto.
Venditto noted that the town had been negotiating with the owner of the property, Jefry Rosmarin, to bring the complex into compliance with building codes since 1996, and that upon the town's order, the owner has spent approximately $125,000 on such improvements within the last couple of years. The town, he said, had also ordered the operators to stop stacking pallets at dangerous heights. Noting that after the fire last week he saw pallets once again stacked dangerously high, as well as unsafe wiring, fire code violations and other "generally unsafe conditions", the supervisor said, "It was over a very short time that this deterioration took place." He also expressed concern that the pallet operations, which were previously only on the south end of the complex, had expanded to near the railroad tracks, where the fire broke out.
Five local fire departments - South Farmingdale, Farmingdale, North Massapequa, Plainview, and Bethpage - were at the scene of last Tuesday's pallet fire, which started at about 2 p.m. "It was a dangerous fire," Venditto said of the blaze, which is still under investigation, noting that he believes it may have been started by a spark from the railroad tracks. "People could get hurt fighting a fire like that," he added.
Although town officials were initially concerned about runoff into the water supply from water that extinguished the blaze at the inactive hazardous waste site, Venditto noted that the Department of Environmental Conservation has ruled out that possibility. The fire was contained to the wood pallets, and firefighters were able to surround and drown it. Still, the heat from the blaze was so strong that one witness saw its smoke while at Wantagh Avenue near the Southern State Parkway.
After the initial shutdown of the industrial complex, which was conducted by town inspectors and Nassau County police, the owner of the property, Jefry Rosmarin last Friday won a temporary restraining order from State Supreme Court in Mineola to prohibit the town from closing the property. When the town attorney went to the Appellate Division in Brooklyn about the matter, Venditto said, the court decided the town was right. On Monday morning, however, the State Supreme Court in Mineola decided that the property should be reopened, he noted. At about 3 p.m. Tuesday, the Appellate Court ruled that the State Supreme Court should not overturn the town's emergency action. "State Supreme Court has been admonished not to substitute its powers for the Town of Oyster Bay's," said Venditto.
A Sept. 14 town hearing is set to further address the matter.
Although Rosmarin declined to comment, operators at the site were irate upon learning of this Tuesday afternoon's Appellate Division ruling.
"I've had it," said Drew Vecchione, owner of ADA Auto Parts, one of several small businesses in the 39-acre complex. "Blatantly, they have interfered with our business for the past seven days," he said of the town, adding, "They haven't issued us violations. They're just trying to keep us closed down." He noted that he employs 10 people, out of 200 to 300 employees at the complex, and that he believes he will be out of business before the Sept. 14 town hearing about the matter. "I think this is a political statement that someone in the Town of Oyster Bay is trying to make," he said, adding, "This landlord does fix the property when he's asked to fix it."
Lance Margolin, an attorney for another tenant, LB Old International, a seasonal furniture distributor, said that the closure will put hundreds of employees out of work. "By Sept. 14, I would venture to say, most of these companies will be out of business," he said, adding, "There was no notice given, no opportunity to be heard." He noted that he is still challenging the matter in State Supreme Court in Mineola.
Venditto noted that he will not be satisfied with conditions at the complex until they are protective of the health and human welfare of both the employees and the surrounding community.