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Resident fighting village over land sale

Island Park resident Gary Levine is seeking for the third time to stop the village from selling a property he claims is park land.

Levine, a former village mayoral candidate, is asking the state Court of Appeals to declare illegal a 2007 decision by the village board of trustees to sell the property to developer Joseph Balabanick without state legislative approval.

"What gives them the right to sell that property?" said Levine, 48, contending the public used the land at 15 Pershing Place and the adjacent Little Beach for more than 45 years. "It is clearly a public beach. They will not build on that park. I will not let them."

Sale of the 40-by-100-foot parcel to Balabanick for $280,000 is pending the outcome of the appeal. Two previous actions by Levine were dismissed.

"By the time we sell it, it will cost us $100,000 -- all because of one person, but he is entitled to his opinion," Mayor James Ruzicka said, referring to the property's loss in value.

Village officials term the site "surplus property" and said it contains a 22-by-26-foot one-story structure used for equipment storage. The village purchased the property in 1967.

"This case has been dismissed twice by the Supreme Court and the Appellate Division," said Michael A. Miranda, a Mineola attorney representing the village. "It is frivolous, and we are now waiting for a decision on plaintiff's motion for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals."

Levine is continuing his three-year fight -- which has cost him more than $10,000 so far -- despite decisions by the Appellate Division in May and the Supreme Court in July 2010 that the property is not a park and does not need sale approval from the State Legislature. The courts said in the latest decision that Levine had failed to prove "that the property has been dedicated as a park, either expressly or by implication."

Balabanick, owner of Banick Construction Inc. of Massapequa, said he plans to construct a two-story home on the site. But the lawsuits by Levine, whose Washington Place home is adjacent to the property, have delayed his plans, he said.

"His biggest issue is that the house is going to block his view from his deck and his window," Balabanick said, adding he tried to alter his plans to appease Levine, who said he is worried his home value would decrease.

If the appeal is unsuccessful, Levine said he would seek state legislative oversight review. "We are not going to allow this illegal sale to go through," he said.

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