After a three-year legal battle, and just before the case was set to be heard in court, a Korean War veteran and the North Hempstead Housing Authority have settled their latest skirmish.
But as in many protracted fights, neither side is content with the outcome.
James McCann, 81, will receive $50,000 after suing the authority, which he alleged sent a cleanup crew to remove and trash his possessions while he was away recovering from a heart attack in 2009.
For McCann, who returned to his housing authority home in Manhasset to find all his belongings gone, the money cannot replace the medals he won for military service, the photos of his late mother and the screenplays he said he wrote but never adapted.
"I'm not happy," said McCann, who has a long history of suing the authority. "I really wanted to have my day in court."
But the judge, and his attorney, Lloyd Nadel, urged McCann to take the settlement. "Under the law in New York, you can't recover for sentimental value," Nadel said.
Sean Rainey, the housing authority executive director, who wasn't in that position in 2009, disagreed with the settlement, saying it "sets a bad precedent [in which] people can make frivolous lawsuits."
McCann said he was recovering in a hospital, and later at his son's home in Mattituck, when the housing authority planned to tackle a severe bedbug infestation in the building. McCann's apartment, said Rainey, "was impossible to clean."
According to court records, Rainey's predecessor told the cleaning company hired by the authority to remove -- not trash -- the items.
"It was an unfortunate thing for anybody," Rainey said. "I would have handled it differently. I would have taken the stuff and put it in storage, which is what the protocol is for an apartment that is cleaned out for eviction or whatever else."
Because of his history of legal battles with the authority, McCann contends the removal was vindictive.
"Everything was gone," McCann said. "They took the food out of my freezer even."
In 2005, McCann was stabbed outside his East Shore Road building. He sued, claiming it had insufficient security measures, and was awarded $12,500, his attorney said. In 2010, he was awarded about $3,600 after his car was damaged in the housing authority garage.
"I don't think they like him there. He's a little bit of a thorn in their side," Nadel said.
According to Rainey, McCann still violates building codes, saying, "He's a hoarder."
McCann, who uses a wheelchair, said he was disillusioned by the process, and had before the settlement pleaded with his lawyer to be heard in front of a jury.
"I'm coming to the time in my life where it's really over," he said before the settlement. "This is the way it's going to end -- with absolutely nothing."