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Town orders vendor to cease operations at catering hall

Hempstead Town Supervisor Lauren Gillen on Tuesday ordered town vendor Butch Yamali to cease operations at a town-owned catering hall in Lido Beach after discovering the vendor does not have a contract to operate the facility. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said Tuesday she has ordered a vendor facing scrutiny from law enforcement to cease operations at a town-owned catering hall in Lido Beach after discovering the company does not have a contract to operate the facility and rarely hosts events there.

Dover Sands Inc. has hosted weddings and other events at the Sands on Lido Beach by an apparent "verbal deal" with town officials since 2011, Gillen said at a news conference in front of the waterfront catering hall. She called the arrangement "extremely troubling."

"There is nothing in place protecting the town and the town taxpayers from potential liability at this facility," she said.

Gillen's order widens her dispute with Dover chief executive Butch Yamali. In July, she decried a "sweetheart" contract extension Hempstead officials offered Yamali to run another town property, Malibu Beach Park, although Yamali had not paid the town rent on Malibu in seven months. Yamali, who has held numerous municipal concessions contracts on Long Island, has dismissed Gillen's actions as political grandstanding. He asked a state Supreme Court in Nassau County in August to confirm the Malibu contract extension was legal. The litigation is ongoing.

Gillen, a Democrat, is seeking re-election Nov. 5.

A spokesman for Yamali said Tuesday Dover does have a contract and insurance to operate Sands and is up-to-date on any payments on the facility owed to the town.

"The supervisor would be well served to review town records before attacking a well-respected vendor who has provided four decades of quality services to Hempstead residents," said the spokesman, Brian Finnegan.

Finnegan did not respond to a request to provide Newsday a copy of the contract. 

Republican Hempstead Councilman Anthony D'Esposito said through a spokeswoman Tuesday Gillen's staff "received copies of contracts and related materials for the Sands and the Malibu" shortly after she took office in 2018. He accused her of "playing politics."

The spokeswoman could not say whether the materials Gillen received included a Sands contract.

Gillen also said Sands is rarely booked for events. In 2018, she said, Dover hosted eight functions at the venue and paid the town $20,000. Records indicate Dover is to provide the town 10% of its sales revenue at Sands, she said.

Gillen suggested the property could be put to better use, noting it is worth $66 million. She said her office has put out a request for expressions of interest to "revitalize" the site.

Asked whether she will permit any future events already booked at Sands to take place, Gillen said: "we have to see," citing concerns about insurance. She said her staff is attempting to contact anyone who has already booked an event at the venue. Finnegan did not respond to a question about whether any such events are already scheduled.

Newsday reported in July that Yamali had not paid the town rent on the property for nearly a year, accumulating a balance at that time of $531,400. The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York then subpoenaed the town for records on Dover.

Yamali has said he has not paid rent on Malibu because the town owes him for capital improvements, and town officials instructed him not to pay until the two sides came to terms.

In August, Newsday reported Yamali has paid Nassau County Republican Committee chairman Joseph Cairo and Cairo's son more than $1 million for legal and project management work at Malibu.

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