Drew Mendelsohn, an Asharoken resident who received two summonses after...

Drew Mendelsohn, an Asharoken resident who received two summonses after he spent a day dragging large pieces of geoweb and other village debris out of the wetlands during Coastal Cleanup Day this month and left them on his beach parking lot to be picked up by the village. The summonses were for littering and leaving garbage out. (Oct. 30, 2011) Credit: Steve Pfost

He tried to clean up his community -- and got two summonses for his trouble.

Asharoken resident Drew Mendelsohn spent the village's Oct. 1 Coastal Cleanup Day working in the wetlands of Duck Island Cove, donning chest waders to remove large pieces of soil-stabilizing plastic webbing that had torn loose, boat parts and even an old village sign before placing them on his personal beach parking lot for pickup by the village.

But instead of accolades for his work, Mendelsohn was visited by village police and served with two summonses for depositing garbage on his lot, and for leaving garbage out the night before a collection, each carrying a maximum $250 fine.

Mendelsohn pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last month and is due back in court on Nov. 16.

"I thought I was doing a good thing," Mendelsohn said. "What is the alternative -- to leave it in the wetlands in perpetuity?"

Mendelsohn said he couldn't load the debris -- especially the plastic webbing, which he estimated at about 20 feet wide, 8 feet tall and 150 pounds -- into his small car to take to village hall for dumping.

Instead, he said, he asked village officials and coastal cleanup organizers if he could leave the large items he found by the side of the road for Monday's trash pickup. They told him that would be fine, he said.

But village attorney Kenneth Savin said the village has a different view of Mendelsohn's actions.

"He was specifically told by the people running [Coastal Cleanup Day] that he could not do that, that we're not doing a special garbage run," Savin said. "The code just says you can't leave it there."

Savin said not having a car large enough for the materials he found was not a defense.

"People were bringing . . . Mercedes and BMWs with the trunk and backseat stuffed with garbage," he said. "Everybody else followed the rules and brought it to Village Hall. Drew decided he wanted a special pickup for his."

Mendelsohn's attorney, Ed Yule of Northport, said village officials unfairly targeted Mendelsohn.

"This is the village's junk that he's pulling out that they [the village] never bothered to clean up," Yule said.

Both summonses state that Mendelsohn was directed to remove the garbage from his beach lot by the village mayor, Pat Irving.

Savin said Irving had called to Mendelsohn on the afternoon of the cleanup from across the street, telling him to remove the garbage; Mendelsohn said Irving shouted at him but said it was from farther away and he couldn't hear her clearly.

"If anyone had said to me that morning I couldn't do that, I had plenty of [other] things to do that day," Mendelsohn said. "I felt good after having done my thing, and I thought that was the end of it."

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