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Nassau seeks to bar Oyster Bay Cove couple from using structure in county preserve

Am image of renovated property in Nassau County's

Am image of renovated property in Nassau County's Red Cote Preserve in Oyster Bay Cove entered as an exhibit in a lawsuit filed by Nassau County in 2017 against Neil Weinberg, Gina Weinberg and Oakwood Industries Inc. Photo Credit: NYS Supreme Court in Mineola

Nassau County is seeking to permanently bar an Oyster Bay Cove couple from using structures they renovated on the publicly owned Red Cote Preserve, adjacent to their home.

A state Supreme Court judge issued a preliminary injunction last year to stop Neil and Gina Weinberg and their business, Oakwood Industries Inc., from using a garage, shed and patio on the county-owned property. Nassau is also seeking more than $14,000 in damages.

Responses to the county’s motion for a permanent injunction are due this month.

Outside counsel for the county said in court filings the couple was trespassing and had violated an easement that required them to provide access through their property to the preserve. The Weinbergs said in court papers they had believed an access agreement between the county and a previous owner would be transferred to them.

“The county has designated this property as ‘open space,’ ” attorney Daniel Flynn of Mineola-based Cuomo LLC said in a motion filed on behalf of  the county in May. “Defendants’ use and occupation of the land changes the nature of the property and interferes with plaintiff’s desired use of the property.”

Randy Zelin, the Weinbergs' Manhattan-based attorney, said they will oppose the county’s motion.

“My clients were not trespassing,” Zelin said Monday. The Weinbergs had permission to use the property, Zelin said, but he declined to elaborate. County spokeswoman Christine Geed declined to comment on the case.

Gina Weinberg, who last month lost her bid to become Oyster Bay Cove’s mayor, said in an affidavit the county purchased the structures through an oversight when the property was subdivided.

“The ownership of these structures is not in question — they are owned by the county. By accident. But OK. So long as we get the use and enjoyment of them,” Weinberg wrote in her affidavit.

Red Cote Preserve was created in the 2000s through the county’s purchase of pieces of three properties while the sellers, or their families, kept their adjoining properties, Newsday has reported. One of those properties was owned by Hermann and Meeter Schwab, whose house the Weinbergs purchased in 2013 from a subsequent owner, MRSG Properties Inc.

The Schwabs' property was subdivided in 2008 and the county purchased the portion that became part of the preserve. Under an agreement with the county, the Schwabs were permitted to continue using the garage and shed, just steps from their house but now on the other side of the property line. That agreement, included in court filings, stated the permit would terminate when the Schwabs ceased to own their adjacent property.

Weinberg, in her affidavit, said conversations with her real estate agent and a former county real estate official before the purchase led the couple to believe they could take over the Schwabs' permit.

When the lawsuit came up in last month’s Oyster Bay Cove election, Weinberg said in an email to Newsday that the problem was with how the county bought land for preservation.

“Many of those acquisitions later turned out to be less than perfectly executed,” she said. “Such is the case with the property adjacent to mine, where there were some very sloppy boundary lines, easements, and special use license issues that were rushed through to expedite the transfers.”

The county alleged in court filings the Weinbergs undertook renovations “when they were fully aware that they needed written permission, which they had not yet received and never obtained.”

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