The Oyster Bay Town Board Tuesday authorized a lawsuit “against all parties that are deemed to be responsible for damages” to the 6-year-old Hicksville town parking garage, which has been plagued with problems such as concrete falling on cars, cracked ceilings and water leaks.
“The taxpayers and the town should not bear the burden of repairing the garage if the problem with the garage is a mistake made by others,” Councilwoman Michele Johnson said in an interview.
The board hired Bohemia-based law firm Kushnick Pallaci, PLLC, which specializes in construction law, for up to $35,000 to serve as special counsel to the town in any potential lawsuit.
The resolution passed 6-1. The councilman who cast the sole ‘no’ vote, Anthony Macagnone, did not return phone calls for comment.
The town earlier this year authorized a structural analysis of the $35-million garage and an evaluation of the garage design. One of the firms hired, Jericho-based Hirani Engineering & Land Surveying, said the garage is structurally sound.
In March, metal posts called screw jacks were installed to support the two underground levels of the four-floor garage until the town can decide on a long-term solution.
The board Tuesday approved hiring Mineola-based Lizardos Engineering Associates PC to study the infiltration of water into the garage’s electrical system, water condensation in stairwells and elevators, the garage’s ventilation and carbon-monoxide-detection systems and other issues. The firm will be paid $34,100.
But Plainview resident Shinu Chacko, who has an electrical engineering degree, said the town shouldn’t wait for the report.
“I think the garage should be closed until they conduct a full investigation into this,” he said Wednesday. “It’s a complete safety hazard, in my opinion.”
He said he was particularly concerned that water leaking into the electrical system poses a risk of electrocution if electrified water or wiring comes into contact with metal – such as the screw jacks – and a person touches that metal.
Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia called on the town to look into Chacko’s assertions.
“I think he has a lot of credibility,” she said. “It is very concerning to me that he would say that.”
But Supervisor Joseph Saladino accused Chacko and other “Democratic activists” of using “politics, subterfuge and lies” to try to undermine and take over the all-Republican board.
Chacko acknowledged he is president of the Judy Jacobs Central Oyster Bay Democratic Club, but said public safety, not politics, is his motivation for speaking out.
Saladino assured residents the garage is safe.
“We have had multiple experts, professional engineers, engineering firms, highly trained employees of the Town of Oyster Bay from the engineering department regularly checking on every aspect to ensure the public’s safety….We can assure the public that they should not be afraid of electrocution,” he said.
Water leaks began within days of the garage opening. At the time, town officials, Freeport-based general contractor Peter Scalamandre and Sons Inc., and Frank Antetomaso, a partner of the Mineola-based firm that designed the garage, Sidney B. Bowne & Son LLP, told Newsday the leaks would stop. Antetomaso is a former town public works commissioner.
Saladino said that since he was appointed supervisor Jan. 31, he has worked to ensure the garage is secure and to protect the town’s legal rights. He declined to say whether the administration led by his predecessor, Supervisor John Venditto, who resigned after his indictment on federal corruption charges, should have pursued legal action earlier.
A Scalamandre spokesman Wednesday defended the company’s work.
“The record will show that this parking structure was built according to specification, was repeatedly inspected by a number of agencies and was turned over to the Town of Oyster Bay as a facility that met its construction criteria,” he said.
Antetomaso did not return phone calls for comment.