4 ask to intervene in Carll farm lawsuit

The gate to the Marion Carll Farm in The gate to the Marion Carll Farm in Commack. Carll's heirs have sued to get back the property from the school district. (Aug. 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Four Commack residents who worry the school district does not want to preserve historic Carll farm have asked to join a lawsuit filed against the district by Carll heirs who want the property back.

Vito J. Cottone, Daniel Fusco, Arthur J. Reilly Sr. and James Tampellini, all from the Town of Huntington, have filed a motion to intervene in the July suit filed by Marion Carll's heirs against the school district -- a move the district opposes. The heirs are seeking the return of the roughly nine-acre farm that dates to 1701 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Carll deeded the farm to the district in 1969 on the condition that it be used for a historical museum and educational farm. But the property, by the Hamlet Golf and Country Club, has remained unused except for a period in the 1990s, when it was leased to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

The district has asked that the suit be dismissed and the restrictions on the property lifted. The four who want to intervene argue that the district's defense "may be a sham" and "a pretext to rid itself of its obligations to maintain the property and circumvent the will of the district's taxpayers who want the property preserved for the community," according to court documents. The court will have to rule on a request before the original suit can move forward.

The interveners' attorney, Richard Handler of Amityville, called the district's reply to the heirs' suit a "halfhearted technical response," lacking certain defenses his clients feel should have been cited, such as statute of limitations.

"If we don't intervene and assert sufficient defenses to the heirs' lawsuit, then the farm may be lost, because the defenses raised by the district may not be adequate to defeat their claim," Tampellini said.

The district's attorney, Eugene Barnosky of Melville, said officials did assert several defenses, including that the heirs did not take the necessary action in the legal time frame -- they had several decades -- to preserve their right to ask for the property back.

Barnosky said he did research the statute of limitations argument but decided not to use it in their official response "for good legal reasons."

"To say that we haven't defended the matter is simply not true," he said.

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