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Brookhaven Town demolishes Ridge Motel East, ending dispute

Brookhaven Town officials knocked down the dilapidated Ridge Motel East on Route 25 in Ridge on Monday March 27, 2017, bringing an end to a monthslong dispute with Suffolk County over which entity had authority over the structure. Officials have said nearly $230,000 in back taxes is owed on the property, which has been vacant for more than a decade and became a haven for squatters. (Credit: Johnny Milano)

Brookhaven Town knocked down the dilapidated Ridge Motel East on Monday, ending a dispute with Suffolk County over who was responsible for the abandoned structure.

In January, the town board voted to demolish the motel even though Suffolk County had earlier granted a hardship waiver for its owner to pay back taxes owed on the property, on Route 25 in Ridge.

At a news conference minutes before the motel was razed, Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine called the structure an eyesore and said it was home to squatters and drug users, and was contaminated with asbestos. Fire officials said the site posed a threat to firefighters if they had to respond to the motel.

Ridge Civic Association president Lee Brooks, who attended the news conference, said residents had complained about the motel for a decade.

Immediately after the news conference, about 20 town, county and fire officials along with residents watched as a bulldozer knocked a sizable hole in one side of the motel and continued until the back wall was torn down.

Officials say the property will be cleared and turned into a public use site. Town officials said that because the site is in a pine barrens protection area, it will be dedicated to the state’s David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve.

The county took control of the site from the owners, the Eugene Lauro Living Trust, in February 2015 through a tax default after 12 years of property taxes went unpaid.

Officials have said nearly $230,000 in back taxes is owed on the property, which stood vacant for more than a decade. Suffolk officials have said they followed county code when they worked with the property owner in an attempt to get the taxes paid.

However, Brookhaven Town officials pushed for the demolition and said the county may have violated state law when it started the process of allowing the owner to redeem the property. County officials have rejected that claim.

Town officials estimated it would cost more than $100,000 to demolish the motel.

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