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Marina owner sued over post-Sandy demolitions

Peter Kopher says it's bad enough his former landlord is destroying his house barge, which washed ashore during superstorm Sandy. He doesn't think he should also have to pay for the demolition.

Kopher is one of seven owners of houseboats, and larger house barges, embroiled in a legal dispute with Ocean's Cove, the company that owns the Seaford marina where the boats were docked before the storm.

Ocean's Cove prevented them from restoring their Sandy-damaged vessels by terminating their electrical and water sources, among other tactics, the boat owners say in papers filed in state Supreme Court in Nassau County. The owners are seeking $500,000 in damages.

A court order gave Kopher and the other boat owners until the end of April to move or demolish their vessels, according to Eric Schwartz, managing member of Ocean's Cove. He considers that "plenty of time," and added that Ocean's Cove needs the boats gone so it can redevelop the marina as six single-family homes.

Some of the boat owners have moved their crafts, while Malcolm Jardine paid $4,000 to have his Sandy-damaged house barge demolished last week.

Two boats -- including Kopher's roughly 20-ton vessel -- were in the process of being demolished by Ocean's Cove on Monday.

Kopher's barge had been tossed onto Ocean Avenue by Sandy and later lifted by crane to a vacant lot next to Ocean's Cove's marina. Now Ocean's Cove would like Kopher to pay for its demolition, Schwartz said.

"It's been six months of hell and I just want it over," Kopher said. "We're trying to move on with our lives and these guys just won't go away."

Schwartz said after the vessels were moved to the vacant lot, they were on Ocean's Cove property "without our permission."

"They took advantage of us," he said.

The boat owners' lawsuit, filed by attorney Ryan Saasto of Huntington, states that Ocean's Cove used "overt, direct, active conduct" in "preventing them from fixing and repairing" their boats post-Sandy. A motion to dismiss by Ocean's Cove will probably be decided within a month, Saasto said.

"It's abhorrent that these tenants, facing this crisis situation after superstorm Sandy, would have to face landlords who have nothing but evil intent to cause them harm," Saasto said.

Hempstead Town does not have jurisdiction in the dispute, town spokesman Mike Deery said.

"It's a matter between a private marina owner and the boat owners," he said.

June Rose, who last month moved her barge "Junique" to nearby RMS Marine Services in Seaford, said she's happy to be gone from Ocean's Cove's marina.

"She's happy to be back in the water, and I'm happy to be back in her," Rose said.

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