The owner of the Ebo Hill mansion in Smithtown attempted to illegally rent a portion of the property last summer and is due in court later this month to answer three charges of violating town code, according to summonses and the town attorney.
In charging papers, investigators from the town’s Public Safety Department said owner Richard Albano used Airbnb to advertise an illegal rental of a three-bedroom apartment in the Edgewood Avenue mansion July 18. Albano also allegedly violated town code by not registering the property with the municipal rental registry program and failing to obtain a certificate of existing use for the apartment.
Albano pleaded not guilty to the charges at an Aug. 2 appearance at Suffolk Fourth District Court in Hauppauge and is scheduled to appear Nov. 29 before Judge C. Stephen Hackeling.
Albano said he had rented the apartment occasionally to defray his $64,000 property tax bill.
Albano’s attorney, Vincent Trimarco Sr., said that the apartment had had “a separate entrance, with separate doorways,” since the 1850s and that he would seek a certificate of existing use from the town.
Ebo Hill is located in a residential district where most business and accessory uses are not permitted by town zoning. Zoning violations are punishable by fines of up to $5,000.
“I believe [the case] started with a complaint,” town attorney Matthew Jakubowski said. Asked whether Albano had come into compliance with town code since the violations were issued, Jakubowski said “If [the ad] is still up, then no.”
An Airbnb ad was still up Saturday, advertising a three-bedroom apartment for $219 per night.
Albano registered a website last February advertising the 42-room, 15-bedroom home’s availability for functions. He invited newlyweds to take wedding photographs free of charge on the grounds and advertised pool parties for $225 per hour, rental of a ballroom for $250 per hour and rental of a speakeasy for $300 per hour with an additional $40 hourly fee for a bartender.
Albano said those services had been erroneously added by someone he'd paid to create the website. They were removed after an inquiry from Newsday, and Albano said the speakeasy had been used chiefly for storage.
A spokesman for the State Liquor Authority said the agency had no record of a permit or permit application at Ebo Hill, and that selling alcohol or using a bartender to distribute someone else's alcohol without a permit would likely violate state law.
The original Ebo Hill, built in the 1840s, housed generations of Smithtown’s namesake family including Ethelbert Smith, who worked in the China tea trade, and his son Richard Lawrence Smith, prominent in yachting and horse circles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
When Albano bought the mansion in 2018 for $600,000, it had fallen into decline and hadn’t been lived in for decades. Albano, who owned pizzerias and flipped houses, became a local celebrity as he renovated the home, documenting discoveries like a walk-in larder once chilled by water pumped in from the Nissequogue River. But a fire in March of that year — possibly started by an ember from the fireplace, Albano said — destroyed the home just weeks into the job. Albano rebuilt using photographs and floor plans.