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Judge orders work halted at Jericho stop on Underground Railroad

Renovations being made to the Maine Maid Inn

Renovations being made to the Maine Maid Inn in Jericho can be seen in this photo from April 21, 2015. Credit: Ted Phillips

State Supreme Court Judge Arthur M. Diamond has ordered the owner of the landmarked Maine Maid Inn in Jericho to stop construction work on the historic building pending a July 20 hearing.

Diamond granted a temporary restraining order in Mineola on Friday on behalf of the East Norwich Civic Association, which brought the suit against the town of Oyster Bay, the town Landmarks Preservation Commission, architect Angelo Corva, and a company controlled by the Scotto Brothers, which owns the property.

The suit seeks to address the preservation commission's "failure" to properly conduct hearings and review plans, said Richard Handler, Amityville-based attorney for the civic group.

Handler said the commission did not explain its reasoning in a May 13 decision to approve work that was underway. "The decision authorizes a partial demolition and a reconstruction of the premises, but it's being done in a nonhistoric manner," he said.

The home at 4 Old Jericho Tpke. was built in 1789 and owned by Valentine Hicks, a Quaker. The town board awarded it landmark status in 2012, in part due to its role as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Town code requires that exterior work on landmarked buildings be approved by the preservation commission, which can take up to two months. In this case, the commission reviewed the plans immediately before the meeting in which they voted.

The partial demolition of the antebellum house outraged preservationists and residents.

Arthur Viana, a partner in the Scotto Brothers, a Woodbury-based restaurant and catering business that wants to reconstruct a restaurant at the site, said they were "working directly hand-in-hand with" civic association president Matthew Meng "to reconcile."

Meng said a call Tuesday from the Scotto group was "a good first step." The problem ultimately lay with the town, which "by not following their own rules and regulations, caused this situation," he said.

In response the town provided a statement from commission member Michael Spinelli: "Any further delay is likely to result in the ultimate destruction of the Maine Maid Inn."

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