Property owners in Mattituck beach dispute sue town

12/16/2011 5:13 PM |

Just days after a jury rejected Christine and Richard Rivera’s civil action against a neighbor who they say trespassed on their Soundfront, Mattituck, beach, the couple filed a new suit, this time in federal court against the town.

The first suit centered on sand, the second revolves around a rock.

In seeking $1 million in damages, the Riveras say that on Nov. 29, the two town employees came on to their property and took a large boulder “which constituted a valuable improvement” to their land. The couple is also seeking compensatory damages.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court’s Long Island office in Islip on Monday, Dec. 12. Three days earlier, on Friday, Dec. 9, a jury in State Supreme Court trial ruled  that the Riveras’ neighbor, Paul Calabro, did not trespass on their property on  two occasions in 2008 and 2009. The Rivaras claim ownership of the beach below the high water mark, an area long considered open to public access.

The town removed the boulder after officials found it to be blocking public access to the beach at the end of Inlet Drive,  adjacent to the Riveras’ property.
Mr. Russell said in an email  that the rock “had been a constant source of complaints we received from the community. To my knowledge, there was no clear indication of how it got there. We went  out and with every available resource and determined that the rock was located well within the town-owned road end.”
He added that the town removes items from what it considers the public right of way “all the time. Boats, cars, etc. are just some the things that we end up
having to remove regularly.”

The Riveras are suing Mr. Russell both personally and in his capacity as supervisor. In their complaint they say the supervisor “was motivated by impermissible considerations, including Russell’s personal animus against the Riveras, as well as Russell’s political desire to  curry favor with certain residents of the town who are antagonistic to  the Riveras.”

In court papers the Riveras say they’ve been singled out for “unequal and prejudicial treatment” by town officials, in violation of their constitutional

They add that Ms. Rivera personally confronted Mr. Russell demanding an explanation and redress for the town’s behavior and Mr. Russell’s  sole response was, “if you don’t like it, sue me.”

The Town Board is expected to discuss the lawsuit in executive session on Tuesday, Dec. 20.