A Seaford man is suing the Town of Islip and a contractor for the loss of three vintage vehicles he says were taken without authorization from his Islip Terrace property.
Arthur R. Schnittger, 69, owns a home on Andrew Avenue that has been in his family since 1923. It was damaged by a fire in August 2014 and has been uninhabitable since then.
The town board, which has been aggressively boarding up, cleaning and demolishing dilapidated properties throughout the municipality during the past two years, authorized a demolition of Schnittger’s house at a May 5, 2015, town board meeting.SIGN UPGet weekly community newsletters
According to the resolution, the chief building inspector was “authorized to order that the work be done to demolish the building and remove demolition debris from the premises by a lowest responsible bidder.”
On Jan. 15, 2016, workers from Watral Brothers Inc. of Bay Shore, which was hired to do the work by the town, and which is also named in the suit, removed Schnittger’s three vintage Chevrolets from a garage on the site. The cars are from 1935, 1938 and 1940, the suit says.
Neither the garage or the house was demolished at the time, and both still stand to date. A request for comment from Watral Brothers was not returned.
On Jan. 21, a week after the cars were removed, Assistant Town Attorney Elyse Grasso notified Schnittger that the garage and the house would be razed, according to the suit.
Schnittger’s attorney, Peter J. Famighetti of Melville, obtained a temporary restraining order on Jan. 28 to prevent the actions, the suit states.
On Feb. 1, after Schnittger inquired about his cars, Grasso told him they had been “junked,” the suit states.
In a notice of claim dated Feb. 10, Famighetti wrote that his client’s civil and constitutional rights were violated when the town “failed to provide Claimant with notice and opportunity to be heard concerning the entering of his detached garage and removing, seizing, and destruction of his personal property contained therein.”
Famighetti said Watral Brothers and the town haven’t responded to letters to return the property.
Grasso, on behalf of the town, filed a motion to dismiss the suit, and wrote that the garage was in violation of town code and New York State Property Maintenance Code “and there is no property right to maintain a property in such manner.”
“Defendant Town of Islip declared the entire property, inclusive of the garage, a nuisance and presented an immediate hazard to the public at large,” she wrote.
The suit seeks $125,000 for the loss of the three cars, the suit states.
“It’s very emotional for him,” Famighetti said of his client. “He’s had the cars since 1972. He’s worked on them with his children and was planning to give them to his grandkids. It’s something he can never get back.”