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Homeowner vows legal battle over flooding

Tony Segreto among the maps and surveys he

Tony Segreto among the maps and surveys he is using to defend against the DEC and the Town of Islip. (Aug. 17, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The 7-foot-tall grandfather clock in this Oakdale home struck 4 p.m., ringing against the library's pastel blue walls, bouncing off its hardwood bookcases and emerald granite fireplace and out a pair of wide-open double doors.

"This is what they want flooded and washed away," Anthony Segreto said of his property. He pointed toward the 1-acre pond 30 feet away -- and getting closer.

Segreto, 68, has battled local governments and state agencies for nearly five years, arguing that frequent flooding and the encroaching waters of Deer Lake are man-made problems that must be corrected. Its southern shore has eroded 10 feet closer since he bought the house in 2005, Segreto said, and his construction of a 3-foot bulkhead to prevent further erosion is a necessity.

State officials disagree -- and the courts support them. A Suffolk County judge Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction blocking Segreto from any modification of his property without a Department of Environmental Conservation permit. The DEC requires permits for any land clearing or construction on tidal wetlands, areas where salt water floods "occur on a daily, weekly or intermittent basis."

But Segreto claims, as he has in various unsuccessful court cases since 2007, that his property doesn't belong under this umbrella. The wetlands, he believes, are man-made.

"Segreto is alleging the same claims over and over again and expecting different results," Islip Town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said. "Time and time again, the court system has determined his claims to be unfounded."

Undeterred, Segreto has spent five years trying to prove that the threat to his home was created by "wrongful, illegal flooding of my property," he said.

"This is ruining my retirement," he added.

The former aerospace executive worked as an engineering contractor with NASA's Apollo program. Soon after he bought his home, he said, he found a problem "no one wants to hear" about.

Segreto said the floods occur because for decades Islip has illegally channeled stormwater runoff from the surrounding neighborhood onto his property. Citing maps dating to 1909, he said Deer Lake has ballooned 300 percent in size, connecting with a nearby spillway to Nicoll Bay.

A lawsuit seeking reparations from Islip and Suffolk County was dismissed in November without trial, a verdict Segreto said he'll appeal.

The DEC, meanwhile, insists the basis of his continued claims is "not valid," spokeswoman Lori Severino said.

The state attorney general's office, which filed for the injunction granted last week, declined to comment.

Segreto concedes many -- including some neighbors -- might think he's a modern Don Quixote battling a different sort of windmill. But he says he won't stop fighting what he calls "government insanity."

"I have the right to try to save my home," he said. "This isn't rocket science."

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