Manorhaven sues cell tower owner

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The Village of Manorhaven has filed a lawsuit aimed at the owner of a cell tower on village land, claiming that the lease terms violated a board resolution and asking a judge to end the lease next year.

In the suit, filed on Aug. 6 in State Supreme Court in Nassau, the village and fellow plaintiffs -- Manorhaven Mayor Giovanna Giunta and five Manorhaven residents -- argue that former Mayor Nicholas Capozzi acted illegally when he signed a five-year lease with AG Towers in 2008 for the village property at 41 Pequot Ave. The lease included 10 automatic five-year lease extensions that can be broken only by AG Towers. But a village board resolution allowed Capozzi to sign a lease for only five years, the suit claims, making the lease extensions void.

The suit asks for a judge to declare the lease expired after the five years is up next March to void any subleases by cellphone providers after that date, and for an award of costs and attorney's fees against AG Towers.

"Ultimately, we're looking to take the tower down," said Manorhaven village attorney Charles Casolaro.

In addition to Capozzi and AG Towers, the suit names as defendants MetroPCS, Omnipoint Communications, and Verizon, along with five John Does.

The attorney for AG Towers, William Wexler, of North Babylon, called the lawsuit "meritless." He said of Capozzi: "I don't believe the mayor did anything wrong." Wexler also questioned why it took years for the village to object to the lease, and said the action against the former mayor appeared as if the village was suing itself.

When informed of the lawsuit, Capozzi said he had relied on the village attorney's office to vet the lease terms, and that he did not recall whether the lease included automatic renewals.

MetroPCS and Verizon did not return calls for comment, and a spokesman for Omnipoint declined to comment on pending litigation.

Giunta was at the forefront of a campaign against the cell tower before she was elected mayor in June. The village, which approved construction of the tower in 2007, had issued a stop-work order against the tower in 2009, but had to allow construction to resume after AG Towers sued the village and won in 2011. The tower has since been constructed but lacks a certificate of occupancy from the village and is not operational.

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