Couple sues Greenport church over unholy mess

05/15/2014 8:00 AM |
Laura Wilson and Thomas Lashinsky have been living in Holy Trinity Episcopal Church's rectory since December 2010. They've sued the church in state Supreme Court, claiming its leadership hasn't adequately addressed mold issues in the building. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Laura Wilson and Thomas Lashinsky have been living in Holy Trinity Episcopal Church’s rectory since December 2010. They’ve sued the church in state Supreme Court, claiming its leadership hasn’t adequately addressed mold issues in the building. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A couple that’s been living in a Greenport church rectory is suing the church for more than $1 million in damages, claiming mold that was allowed to fester in the building for years during their residence there has made them chronically ill.

Thomas Lashinsky and his wife, Laura Wilson, moved into the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church rectory in 2010 and Mr. Lashinsky later began maintaining the parish’s Main Street properties. But things began to go sour last year and in November, they said, the church asked them to vacate the premises. The couple is now claiming church leadership allowed them to live in the rectory amid extensive mold without moving to fully rectify the problem, according to a lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court. 

The complaint alleges the situation was created “solely as a result of the negligence of the defendant with no culpable conduct on the part of the plaintiff.”

The church has denied all the allegations in the complaint, according to a response filed by the church’s attorney, James Lynch of Garden City.

“If plaintiffs sustained injuries and damages as alleged in the complaint, said injuries and damages were caused in whole or in part by the plaintiffs’ carelessness, negligence, assumption of risk and or culpable conduct,” the church’s response states.

Mr. Lynch declined to comment on the case.

Meanwhile, church board member Jane Welz has resigned and is assisting Mr. Lashinsky and his wife, who still live in the building. Ms. Welz questions the church’s failure to properly remediate the rectory’s mold problem.

“It breaks my heart,” she said. “I’ll never join another church organization again.”

“All we ever wanted to do was fix up this place,” Ms. Wilson said. “We thought that we could really make it nice. I can’t believe we are in this situation.”

They said that throughout their ordeal — they first noticed mold 10 months after moving in — they had remained hopeful the mold issues would be fixed and life would return to normal. The couple and church leaders only recently reached an agreement that requires the couple vacate the premises by June 30.

Local church leaders and a spokeswoman for The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island declined to comment for this story, but a former part-time priest at the church described Mr. Lashinsky and Ms. Wilson as “squatters.”

“It is a mystery that they want to live there with it being so dangerous, especially when they’ve asked them to leave,” said Father Paul Wancura, who worked part time at Holy Trinity for 10 years before retiring in September. “The church brought them in to help them out. They paid [Mr. Lashinsky] to work for them and he was to give a nominal donation with the rental. If the fellow would just leave with his wife, it would improve his health,” he said.

But the couple says leaving the rectory will be financially difficult. Not only has Mr. Lashinsky’s health deteriorated, they say, but Ms. Wilson has also begun to suffer from blurred vision, memory loss and confusion. He said he is physically unable to work and suffers from dizziness, trouble concentrating and hearing loss. His wife earns money by selling homemade products online.

“We are scared,” he said. “We want to get out of this home so bad right now, but we have no income. We have no money. I don’t know where we are going to wind up living. It might be in our truck.”

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