A Huntington Station couple sharply critical of the AvalonBay housing development are suing the town because they allege town officials and staff began retaliating against them for their opposition to the project.

John and Jennifer LaVertu say their free speech rights were violated and have filed a First Amendment lawsuit in the Long Island office of the U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York. The suit was filed last week and seeks unspecified damages.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"They've been tortured and tormented over the last couple of years and held up to ridicule," said Garden City attorney Steven Morelli, who is representing the couple who have criticized the project as too dense for the community. "They are excited about the prospect of a jury deciding this issue."

Huntington Town spokesman A.J. Carter said the town had not received the suit and could not comment until it has had a chance to review the court papers.

The suit alleges that after the couple vehemently opposed the AvalonBay development in Huntington Station, a mix of rentals and for-sale units that is under construction on a 26.6-acre site on East Fifth Street, they became the victims of a campaign of harassment orchestrated by the town.

In their lawsuit, the couple alleges that their home was the target of unfounded town code violation summonses; a video was posted on websites, including the town Facebook page, that included Jennifer LaVertu's tax records; questions were raised regarding John LaVertu's plumbing license and permits he received from the town; and that they were the subject of anonymous Internet comments the couple believes were posted by town employees.