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Town demands $15M for 'environmental destruction' at Brookhaven Rail Terminal

This aerial image, provided by the Town of

This aerial image, provided by the Town of Brookhaven, shows the Brookhaven Rail Terminal site, left, in Yaphank on May 2014. Credit: Town of Brookhaven

The Town of Brookhaven has demanded $15 million in damages from the operators of the Brookhaven Rail Terminal for what the town calls "the environmental destruction" caused by illegal sand mining and other actions at the terminal's Yaphank property.

The town said in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip earlier this month that it would be willing to accept $7 million, not including cleanup costs, if the operators dropped their legal opposition to the damage claim.

The town said it had requested an expedited handling of its demand because of ongoing environmental damage, and danger to the underground water supply, caused by sand mining and illegal dumping at the site.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary R. Brown rejected the request for an expedited proceeding and ordered both sides to "meet and confer in a good-faith attempt" to resolve their dispute.

If they fail, they can return to court and go through the normal legal process of filing a briefing schedule, the judge ruled. The attorney handling the suit for the town, Robert Calica of Garden City, said he expected to file a briefing schedule with the court next week, perhaps by Monday.

The rail terminal's corporate parent, Sills Road Realty LLC, said in court papers that many of the town's accusations were unfounded or unproved.

The terminal said it had agreed in December to halt shipments of "used oil" -- which the town calls "waste oil" -- until it settles the dispute.

Brown issued a preliminary injunction last June that barred the terminal from further sand mining at the site. The town said the mining was illegal and had netted millions in revenue for the terminal's corporate partners.

In its recent filing, the town said it wanted to convert the judge's preliminary injunction into a permanent injunction. It also made the damage claim for attorney fees it paid, environmental consultants it had to hire, and the sand that was removed.

The rail terminal opened in 2011, and its first shipments were construction materials used by some of its corporate partners. It has since expanded its shipments and raised the possibility that fewer trucks would be needed on Long Island roads as more goods moved by rail.

Calica said in a March 17 letter to the judge that he was seeking to expedite the court filings for several reasons, including "any possible insolvency stay" should the terminal declare bankruptcy.

He said in a March 18 letter to the judge that "a principal" of the terminal had told a town official about "a possible BRT bankruptcy filing."

An attorney for the terminal and other corporate defendants, Kevin Mulry of Uniondale, said in a letter to the judge that the reference to a bankruptcy filing had "no basis in fact."

Mulry also said the defendants were "surprised" by the latest legal action, "because, for several months, the parties have engaged in active settlement discussions."

Mulry said the town "pretends to ask the court's permission to file its motion, but rather than wait for the court's ruling (or any opposition from the other parties to the case) the town brazenly went ahead and filed the motion on its own."

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