Hearing postponed on Laurel Hollow showcase home
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A hearing to decide whether Laurel Hollow village can permanently shut down an open house at a mansion showcasing the work of interior designers was postponed until Thursday, the judge's clerk confirmed.
New York State Supreme Court Judge Karen Murphy delayed the hearing that had been scheduled for last Friday. Murphy issued a temporary restraining order on Sept. 6 that shut down the open house until both sides could argue their cases.
Village officials allege that the open house is an illegal commercial activity not permitted under zoning regulations. Organizer Claudia Dowling said they believed they were in compliance with the village's demands when they opened on Aug. 31.
Organizers had intended to run the open house for the public for seven extended weekends through Columbus Day.
Village officials are not saying how much taxpayers are racking up in legal fees to shut down the open house. On Sept. 3, village trustees held an emergency meeting to hire the Garden City law firm of Berkman, Henoch, Peterson, Peddy & Fenchel P.C. at a rate of $200 an hour, plus expenses, to represent it against the open house organizers.
Village attorney Howard Avrutine declined to comment on how many hours the law firm has worked on the case or how much it would cost. "The information you are asking for is privileged and confidential attorney client communications," Avrutine said in an email. "It will not be disclosed."
Avrutine said their legal bills will be subject to disclosure through the Freedom of Information Law after they are received.
Mayor Daniel DeVita, an attorney with an office in Garden City, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment. Avrutine said he would field queries on behalf of the mayor. "Please do not contact the Mayor," Avrutine said in an email.
Real estate broker Maria Lanzisero continues to show the $2.5 million house, known as Cedar Knolls, to potential buyers, but the names and business cards of the designers have been removed to comply with the restraining order.
"If someone asks me who did the kitchen -- just like I would on any other sale -- I'm going to tell them," Lanzisero said. She said she is discussing her rights under the First Amendment to talk about the house to potential buyers. The village "can only tell me so much of what I can and cannot do to sell the house," she said.