A Lynbrook couple has accepted a tentative settlement with the village four years after officials and village police seized a beehive from their backyard.
Daryl Altman and her partner Robert Shepard had agreed to accept $50,000 in damages from the village, but now want the village to cover $75,000 in legal fees. The couple had originally sought $2.5 million from the village and the right to raise honeybees in their suburban backyard.
The couple has been fighting with the village ever since police and a village beekeeper vacuumed 20,000 bees and removed the beehive while the couple were at work in 2017. The bees were relocated by a member of the Long Island Beekeepers Association to the Queens County Farm Museum.
The lawsuit alleged trespassing, unreasonable rights to search and seizure and violation of due process.
The village offered the pair $50,000 to settle the case in March. Although the couple accepted the offer, the case is pending over the legal fee issue.
"The case stretched out a lot longer than we anticipated it would," Shepard said. "We settled to be done with this, but they offered significantly less than what our legal fees were."
Lynbrook village officials declined to comment Wednesday because the case has not been resolved.
Village officials said in court records they had received a complaint from a neighbor who lived directly behind the couple. The neighbor said bees from Shepard's backyard were swarming near a children’s play set, court records say.
A Lynbrook building inspector asked to check out the backyard and told the couple the beehive had to be removed, according to court records. Shepard's attorney argued that village code did not address "harboring useful honeybees."
The village seized the bees and beehive four days later, on June 26, 2017, citing it as an infestation of insects covered by village code under a search warrant signed by a village justice. Village officials said the infestation "would constitute a hazard to the health, welfare and safety of Lynbrook residents." The code calls an infestation "the presence of insects, rodents, vermin or other pests."
Shepard said his next-door neighbors didn’t complain. He contended the property of the neighbor who complained was actually infested by different hornets or insects.
Shepard, a retired Town of Huntington cashier, and his wife, a Far Rockaway doctor of allergens and immunology, started the beehive in 2016 to increase pollinators and help the environment, he said.
He said the beehive created about 40 pounds of honey in the first year, which they gave to family, friends and neighbors.
"We were beekeepers and did a lot of research and we decided we would love to keep bees and we set up a successful hive for a year," Shepard said. "It was an enriching experience. We’d open the windows on a summer morning or afternoon and the hum gave a feeling of life into our kitchen. It was great."
Shepard said the hive was returned without the bees and they’ve kept it in their front yard as a memorial and a reminder of the village’s actions. He said they had not had bees at their home ever since and plan to move upstate where they can manage a hive.
The case is pending in the U.S. Eastern District of New York court and was assigned to a new judge last month.
- 2017 — Lynbrook officials relocated a hive with 20,000 honey bees to the Queens County Farm Museum.
- 2018 — $2.5 million lawsuit filed against the village.
- 2021 — $50,000 settlement reached, $75,000 attorneys fees in dispute.