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Long IslandCrime

Defendants gave homeowner no special treatment, official testifies

Defense witness John Bishop, Oyster Bay's deputy highway commissioner, testified Tuesday the homeowner whose property is at the center of a corruption case against another town employee and a former commissioner got no special treatment.  

Frank Antetomaso, former Oyster Bay Town public works

Frank Antetomaso, former Oyster Bay Town public works commissioner Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Oyster Bay's deputy highway commissioner testified Tuesday that the Massapequa homeowner whose property is at the center of a corruption case against another town employee and a former commissioner got no special treatment in connection with a sidewalk repair.

Defense witness John Bishop also testified the Greenwood Drive sidewalk had become a tripping hazard, saying Town of Oyster Bay highway maintenance supervisor Salvatore Cecere was authorized and obligated to take the actions he did once he learned of the danger.

Cecere, 51, of West Sayville, is on trial in Nassau County Court on misdemeanor charges of official misconduct and theft of services with his uncle, former Oyster Bay public works commissioner Frank Antetomaso, 78, of Massapequa.

Prosecutors have alleged Cecere arranged for the town to repair the sidewalk at no cost  — even after a town program subsidizing homeowners’ costs for such work had ended — as a favor to Antetomaso, a longtime friend of the homeowner.

Evidence showed homeowner Philip Vella, 79, only received a bill — which he paid — less than a month after the defendants’ arrests in June 2017. That bill also arrived months after the last post-repair inspection in January 2017 and nearly a year after a wiretap in August 2016 captured Cecere and Antetomaso discussing the matter.

Bishop said during questioning by defense attorney Joseph Ferri that the sidewalk program was modified from a payment perspective after town officials passed a new code in July 2016.

The deputy commissioner also testified the delay in billing was due to the town creating new processes for how sidewalk work was handled.

Prosecutor Jesse Aviram played the wiretapped call for jurors while he cross-examined Bishop.

On it, Antetomaso told Cecere his friend’s property had a “raised” sidewalk from a dead tree. But he added: “Really, they don’t have a tripping hazard.”

Antetomaso then asked Cecere if the town would generally take the dead tree down, and Cecere agreed.

“If they take the tree down and with the sidewalk like that, does he have to fix it or does the town fix it?” Antetomaso also said.

“Well, generally, we’d have him sign up with us with the program, but we’re no longer doing that,” Cecere replied.

“Okay,” said Antetomaso.

“But being the situation, being a friend of yours, just give me the address tonight and I’ll take care of it,” Cecere told him.

Bishop testified he’d not heard the call previously. But he wouldn’t agree that Antetomaso, a professional engineer, had said the situation wasn’t a tripping hazard.

Bishop testified that Antetomaso having said the sidewalk was raised made it a tripping hazard.

The witness acknowledged other Oyster Bay homeowners with sidewalk hazards, who are grandfathered in under the subsidy program, are still awaiting town repairs, and nothing in town paperwork showed Vella’s job was an emergency.

Bishop also testified he had an “open-ended” interpretation of the new town code that says a homeowner has to hire a private contractor to do sidewalk repair within 90 days if the town notifies the homeowner of a hazard.

It also says if the homeowner fails to fix the hazard in that time, the town can do the work upon written notice and send a bill.

Bishop said it basically meant, do the job or the town would do it and send a bill. He added that if the town's many elderly homeowners couldn't handle the repair, the town would do the work.

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