After taking a Baiting Hollow couple to court over an addition to their home — a project the town has called a health and safety risk — Riverhead Town was granted permission last month to knock the structure down.
The town, however, still needs to take certain steps to make that happen.
State Supreme Court Judge Jerry Garguilo ordered June 11 that “The Town of Riverhead is directed and authorized to remove immediately the third story tower and fourth story platform” at the home of Eugene and Doreen Lafurno.
On Tuesday, Supervisor Sean Walter said the town is now seeking a notice of entry from the courts into Mr. Lafurno’s home, and will have to declare the house unsafe under its own code before hiring a contractor to do the work.
Mr. Lafurno has 30 days to file a notice of appeal on the notice of entry, Mr. Walter said.
“This is very difficult because we have to physically go into his house with a contractor, take this structure down, and seal up the roof — all the while, this interesting individual is there,” Mr. Walter said. “We have to treat this with kid gloves.”
Mr. Lafurno stands by the addition on his property and says the structure is a religious alteration exempt from height restrictions. In an interview last week, he provided a building permit he received in 2010 that OK’d an “alteration to residence for cupola,” among other items. He also pointed to Chapter 108 of the town code, which states that “Height limitations of this chapter shall not apply to church spires, belfries, [or] cupolas.”
But town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said that because the structure is a single-family home, no such exemption would be allowed.
“It’s not a church. It’s a house,” he said. “Therefore, the 35-foot requirement applies. Regardless, there is no evidence to the contrary that it’s not poorly constructed and unsafe.”
Mr. Lafurno said last week that the addition — which is wrapped in tarps and remains unfinished — has withstood Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
“It went through two hurricanes,” he said. “Did anything happen to it?”
According to Judge Garguilo’s ruling, the town is authorized to “engage all appropriate vendors, experts and consultants required to safely remove and take down said structures in a manner best designed to protect neighbors of the subject premises.” Mr. Lafurno would then be liable for all costs.
This week, neighbors said that despite the recent ruling, they aren’t holding their breaths that the addition will come down anytime soon.
“We’ve been waiting for years to see if the town is going to follow through,” said Laurie Lorusso. “It devalues homes in the area. And it’s a safety issue.”
Mr. Lafurno said he believes the work performed on his home will increase its value 30-fold. He also said he believes “We are being kept poor” by people in positions of power — namely, the financial industry and the government.
“They want you and me to struggle as the slaves did among the foreclosures that they create,” he said.
In 2013, a court deemed Mr. Lafurno unfit to defend himself and he was sent to a psychiatric facility. He called those actions further evidence that “They found out I know what they are doing for their power.”
The Baiting Hollow man has called his home “The Epiphany” — an illustration of his “free enterprise dream” — and modeled it after a Remsenburg home that was on the market for over $10 million.
Mr. Lafurno said his wife, Doreen — also named in the town’s lawsuit — now lives in Florida.