Huntington’s case against town board member Gene Cook and his real estate partners for housing code violations at an East Northport property was dismissed Monday in Sixth District Court in Patchogue.
Judge James P. Flanagan said he dismissed the violations, despite the fact that he “can’t disagree” with the town’s argument — that alterations were made to a staircase attached to the property on 792 Larkfield Rd. without the required permit or certificate of occupancy.
The town issued summonses in April 2015 to TGJ LLC, a company owned by Cook, Huntington real estate agent Tim Cavanagh and Commack attorney Josh Price. The case has been long-delayed due to the death of the attorney formerly representing TGJ and health issues that delayed testimony by witness Lisamarie Walter, a former inspector for the Town of Huntington.
The judge said he ruled the way he did for “the sole reason” that Huntington failed to prove that Cook and his partners owned the property when the work was done.
“No proof was presented to this court in a form that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that TGJ was the owner of that property,” Flanagan said, adding that he typically receives a certified deed proving ownership.
A copy of the town’s file on the property, obtained by Newsday through a Freedom of Information request, includes Town of Huntington tax map records that list TGJ as the owner of the property since September 2014.
It also includes an April 14, 2015, letter that Cook sent to the inspector who issued the violation in which he acknowledges ownership of the property, saying, “I was part of the new ownership.”
Cook and his attorney declined to comment, as did Westchester-based Edward Guardaro Jr., Huntington’s outside counsel in the case.
Cook and his partners have maintained that any changes to the house were legal and that the stairs were changed before they purchased the property in fall 2014.
Homes that were built before the town had zoning laws are grandfathered in “as is” even if they don’t comply with current zoning laws. However, that protection goes away if changes are made to the property’s structure or use.
Town records show that the house was built before zoning codes were created in 1934.