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State fines Nissequogue property owners over building on bluffs

State officials said a staircase built on the

State officials said a staircase built on the bluff behind a Nissequogue home violated the terms of a state permit. Credit: James Carbone

The owners of two homes on Nissequogue Village’s Long Island Sound coast must pay $80,000 in combined penalties for improper building on sensitive bluffs there.

While the work did not cause any long-term damage to the area, state environmental officials said, one homeowner was ordered to remove portions of a wall that encroached on a public beach, and another will have to clean up fill material that tumbled down to the beach after heavy rains in late October.

Lorenzo Ardito, owner of a Long Beach Road home, and Jon Savastano, president of Bluffs Realty, which owns a Bluff Road home, both signed agreements with the DEC admitting permit violations and agreeing to make corrections. Ardito was assessed penalties of $95,000 but settled for $50,000; Bluffs Realty was assessed penalties of $80,000 but settled for $30,000.

In an email, a DEC spokeswoman wrote that the fines “were assessed to punish the respondent for the violations and also to send a message of deterrence to others that would consider deviating from their permit.”

State environmental officials regulate building on the bluffs and other natural protective features on Long Island Sound as part of the state’s coastal management program.

Both homeowners had state permits to build massive stone walls along the toe of the bluffs to slow coastal erosion that can eat away a foot or more per year of waterfront property.

But Ardito built an additional row of stone and a staircase with a landing on the bluff that state officials had never agreed to, according to his Nov. 3 consent decree. He also used unauthorized backfill for his wall that included brick and concrete, instead of clean sand. And he put down “well in excess” of the permitted 350 cubic yards of fill on the upper bluff face. Some of that material collapsed and slid onto the beach during a late October storm.

“There was also a bunch of unauthorized soil and fill that came down, larger chunks of cobble and rock,” said Carrie Meek Gallagher, head of DEC’s Long Island operations. “He’s got to take it off” the beach, she said.

Ardito was given a month to remove an unauthorized beach landing and two months to remove the extra row of stone and the fill. He has until May to plant appropriate species on the bluff face, something Gallagher said would slow erosion.

“I don’t think he intentionally violated the permit,” said Ardito’s attorney, Glenn Gruder of Hauppauge. “He wanted to make the best wall possible to protect his house.”

Bluffs Realty failed to notify the DEC it was starting work, then built its armoring wall 10 to 15 feet too far seaward in places, according to its Oct. 23 consent decree. DEC inspectors also found the company was using stone instead of sand as backfill for the armoring wall, although the company said it was only storing the material temporarily during a stop-work order issued by Nissequogue Village.

Village staffers had issued that order over the summer when the home had another owner, saying the wall’s size and location violated local permitting.

The company agreed to remove and replace its armoring wall and the backfill, and was given two months to plant the bluff face. Savastano did not respond to a request for comment left at his home.

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