The family that owns Brinkmann's Hardware is suing Southold Town over its...

The family that owns Brinkmann's Hardware is suing Southold Town over its attempt to claim property via eminent domain that the family owns in Mattituck.  Credit: Randee Daddona

A federal court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Southold Town by the family-operated Brinkmann’s Hardware chain that seeks to stop the seizure of a Mattituck property by eminent domain. 

U.S. District Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall issued a ruling Sept. 30 from U.S. Eastern District Court in Brooklyn granting Southold Town’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. It was filed in May 2021 by the Brinkmann family, which owns a chain of hardware stores on Long Island. The suit centers around a 1.8-acre property at 12500 Main Rd. in Mattituck that the family purchased in December 2016.

Town officials have a building moratorium along Main Road between Bay Avenue and Pike Street and want to seize the property via eminent domain to potentially convert it into a public park. The Brinkmanns — who applied for a building application in June 2018 — want to open a new location on the land.

In the 11-page decision, Hall ruled that the Brinkmanns failed to state a claim under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees that one person’s property may not be taken to benefit another private person without a justifying public purpose.

“Plaintiffs do not allege that their property was taken to bestow a private benefit. Nor do plaintiffs allege that the Town Board failed to follow the procedure provided by New York’s eminent domain laws or that the Town Board’s findings and determinations concerning whether a park is a ‘public use’ are unsupported. And, plaintiffs do not, and could not, dispute that building a public park is a public use,” Hall wrote.

Hall added that despite this, the Brinkmanns have maintained that they don’t need to allege that their property was taken to bestow a private benefit “because it is sufficient to allege that the public purpose is pretextual and that the true purpose is to prevent them from expanding their business to Southold.”

When reached for comment, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell directed comment to the town attorney’s office. The office did not return requests for comment.

In a statement provided Wednesday to Newsday, Hank Brinkmann, co-owner of the business, called the ruling “a positive development for us” and said the family will appeal.

“We knew the judge was going to dismiss us because of what she said last summer, so this just means that we can finally take our case up to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and we’re confident that the Second Circuit will follow other courts that have addressed this issue by holding that it is unconstitutional to use eminent domain as a way of stopping people from making lawful uses of their property,” Brinkmann said.

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