Lawyer: Town will pay Mattituck couple $15,000 after removing rock

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | The pink stake shown between the fence and the trash can marks the spot where the Rivera's rock stood.

Southold Town has settled a federal lawsuit brought by Christine and Richard Rivera over the town’s removal of a boulder at the end of Inlet Drive in Mattituck they maintain was on their property.

The Riveras’ attorney, Jonathan Sinnreich, said Wednesday that the town has agreed to replace the boulder, make a formal apology to his clients and pay $15,000 to cover their legal costs.

“It is a complete vindication of my clients’ position,” he said. “My clients were right from the get-go that they took it incorrectly … It should never have happened.”

The rock was removed by town employees last November after years of complaints from nearby residents that it was blocking access to the beach. The Riveras produced surveys that show that the rock is on their land.

The Riveras sued Supervisor Scott Russell and the town workers who removed the rock.

In their complaint, the Riveras 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.”

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court’s Long Island office in Islip.

Three extensions were granted by Justice Arthur D. Spatt while the town and the Riveras worked out the details of the settlement.

The Southold Town Board voted Tuesday afternoon to accept the settlement and both parties are due to return to court April 6.

The settlement “will be funded by the town’s insurance carrier and the risk retention fund,” according to the resolution.

Town officials declined to discuss the settlement, but did offer the following statement:

“The town and the town supervisor apologize to Mr. and Mrs. Rivera for removing the rock. The town acknowledges that the rock was on Mr. and Mrs. Rivera’s property, as confirmed by a recent survey, and should not have been removed. The rock will be restored and payment will be made to Mr. and Mrs. Rivera for their costs and damages.”

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