By Connor Beach
The Town of Huntington and a real estate company whose partners include Councilman Eugene Cook have been named as defendants in a federal lawsuit seeking $5 million in damages over alleged zoning violations.
The lawsuit was filed Sept. 11 in U.S. District Court Eastern District in Central Islip by Huntington-based attorney Christopher Cassar on behalf of plaintiffs Mary Ann Dellinger and Carmen Tomeo, former owners of a multi-family home at 792 Larkfield Road in East Northport.
The lawsuit, obtained by Long Islander News, claims town officials unfairly targeted the plaintiffs with town code violations that enabled TGJ 2014 LLC — a real estate company owned by Cook, Huntington real estate agent Tim Cavanaugh, and formerly Joshua Price — to purchase the home for $400,000, a price that Dellinger and Tomeo argue was well below market value.
“The Town of Huntington has permitted and tolerated a pattern and practice of unjustified, unreasonable and illegal use of the enforcement of the town code against the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states.
Cook declined to comment on the lawsuit when asked Tuesday. Town spokesman A.J. Carter said town officials could not comment since the town had not yet been served with the lawsuit.
The lawsuit further states that the Town of Huntington issued Dellinger and Tomeo a “Letter in Lieu” that protected the home’s use as a five-family dwelling. However, in 2012, the town informed them the property was zoned for single-family dwellings and must be returned to a single occupant, according to the lawsuit.
The town issued summonses to Dellinger and Tomeo in September 2012 for town code violations, citing overcrowding and five illegal apartments, yet after the sale to TGJ in September 2014, the town has not filed any violations concerning overcrowding or illegal apartments, according to the suit.
The lawsuit also alleges that Huntington officials spoke to other prospective buyers and persuaded them not to buy the property prior to TGJ’s successful purchase.
“That caused my clients a loss of income and decreased the property value,” Cassar said in an interview Wednesday.
A lawsuit was filed by the town against Cook in 2015 over two summonses issued for alleged alterations to a staircase without a permit or a certificate of occupancy. That lawsuit was dismissed before it reached trial.
Cassar said the lawsuit does not compare to the violations previously brought against Dellinger and Tomeo by Huntington officials.
The town “only brought up some stairwell violations” in its lawsuit, Cassar said. “It almost appears to be some sort of diversion.”
Cassar said he plans to serve the lawsuit to all the defendants sometime next week.