A company controlled by the Lizza family has vacated Oyster Bay property to meet a court order to return possession to the town.
District Judge Scott Fairgrieve last month issued a judgment in landlord-tenant court in Hempstead giving the company, M-pire Land Rental, until March 4 to remove its equipment and debris from 200 Winding Rd. in Old Bethpage.
The site appeared empty on Monday; the office trailer, trucks and equipment were gone and the gate was open. The company had failed to honor an agreement with the town to vacate by Dec. 31, leaving the 1.8-acre site filled with dozens of trucks, heavy construction equipment and an office trailer. Some of that equipment remained last week.
The president of M-pire Land Rental is Carolyn Lizza, the daughter of Elia Lizza, chief executive of Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. Elia Lizza was indicted in 2017 with his wife, Marisa, on state charges of conspiracy, bribery, defrauding the government and rewarding official misconduct related to an alleged scheme involving former Oyster Bay officials, including the late planning commissioner Frederick Ippolito. They have pleaded not guilty. The property was also used for years by Carlo Lizza & Sons, beginning in 2012, public records show.
Town records obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests show that the town first received payment from the Lizzas to occupy the property on July 15, 2015, in the form of a $74,000 check from M-pire Land Rental that said “lease payment” in the memo line. M-pire Land Rental and another company, Repave Inc., sent additional checks for rent or utilities ranging from $97 to $18,306.
Ippolito was indicted on federal tax evasion charges in March 2015 for not reporting $2 million in consulting fees he received from the Lizzas. He pleaded guilty and died in prison before being charged in 2017, posthumously, by Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas for allegedly accepting bribes related to a land deal at 50 Engel St. in Hicksville, where Carlo Lizza & Sons operated before moving its equipment to 200 Winding Rd.
The town paid Carlo Lizza & Sons millions of dollars for roadwork over several years. For "use of land," the town on May 3, 2016, reduced a payment to Carlo Lizza & Sons under a road construction contract by $47,000. An unsigned note attached to the FOIL response said the reduction covered use of the land over 47 months from 2012 through May 2016 and another payment reduction of $6,000 covered an additional six months.
Neither the Lizzas nor town officials have produced written agreements that gave the companies permission to use the property. Lizza attorney John Carman said in an email Sunday the town had agreed to give the company a long-term lease but “the lease agreement was never finalized” and instead the company had a month-to-month lease. Town officials said in legal filings the company occupied property under contracts, but those contracts required additional town approvals for equipment storage that were not provided in response to FOIL requests. The town board in 2014 authorized a licensing agreement with M-pire Land Rental to occupy the property but the town did not provide that agreement either. Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr., who does not have a vote on the town board, said Sunday “the license was never executed.”
“M-pire was staying on town property illegally,” Altadonna said.
Altadonna, who is challenging Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino in November, said Saladino is “trying to sweep it [the issue] under the carpet.”
“Rather than politicize a matter that this administration had nothing to do with, Jim should support our lawsuit against Lizza which removed the company from the property and holds them legally accountable to taxpayers,” Saladino said in an emailed statement Sunday.
Town spokesman Brian Nevin said in an email Sunday the town is working with an outside firm to conduct environmental tests on the property.