2011 Top Story No. 5: Beach war with no end in sight

12/28/2011 7:00 AM |

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Attorney David Raimondo and his client, Paul Calabro, leave the Riverhead courtroom earlier this month. A jury found Mr. Calabro did not trespass on Christine and Richard Rivera's beach.

Mattituck residents Christine and Richard Riveras have been busy this year trying to keep their beachfront property free from neighboring beach walkers.

Two years ago, the couple sued their neighbor, Paul Calabro, accusing him of trespassing on their beach on two occasion sin 2008 and 2009. Mr. Calabro maintained that he was below the high water mark on both occasions and said the Riveras frequently harass their neighbors for walking on the portion of the beach open to the public through the Public Trust Doctrine. The Riveras maintain that through a court default judgement in a case against the state, they own beach that has built up over time in front of their home.

After a three-day trial in early December, a State Supreme Court jury spent less than 10 minutes deliberating before unanimously finding that Mr. Calabro did not trespass. He has never been charged with that by the Southold Police.

Mr. Calabro’s attorney, David Raimondo, said as he was leaving the courtroom Dec. 9 that he has frequently seen juries return verdicts that quickly “when the evidence is so overwhelming.”

“The Riveras could not convey exactly what property they owned and their recollection of the trespass was completely faulty,” he said.

Ms. Rivera said as she left the courtroom that she and her husband were disappointed, but “that still doesn’t change the fact that if someone trespasses on our property we will respond accordingly.”

True to her assertion, Ms. Rivera was back in court the very next week, filing a federal lawsuit against Southold Town, Supervisor Scott Russell and two town employees for allegedly removing a large boulder from property they claim to own along the end of Inlet Drive. The town, which removed the boulder on Nov. 29, maintains it was improperly located in a public right of way.

The Rivaras claim damages in excess of $1 million and in their court papers said the town deprived them “of protected property interests without due process.”

Mr. Russell said the rock “has been a constant source of complaints we received from the community … We went out and with every available resource determined that the rock was located well within the town-owned road end.”

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