Realtor seeks $10 million in damages from Riverhead Town

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | The Oxman land on Route 58.

Fresh off winning a court ruling in his favor, realtor Larry Oxman is going on the attack.

Mr. Oxman of Remsenburg filed this week a notice of claim —  the precursor to a lawsuit — seeking $10 million in damages from Riverhead Town and several former town officials.

In 2004, the town claimed Mr. Oxman and Riverhead Park Corp. — a company headed by Stanley Blumenstein of East Hampton, who died in 2010 — illegally cleared 13 acres of their property just east of Riverhead Raceway on Route 58.

“I was wrongfully accused of violating the Town Code,” Mr. Oxman said. “At great expense, I was forced to legally defend myself.”

The clearing of trees and other vegetation took place on the weekend just before the town was planning to rezone the property to a zone that permitted less intensive development than the previous zone.

Mr. Oxman, in turn, claimed the land was cleared for use as a farm.

The town code, he has maintained, “clearly states that agricultural activities are exempt from requiring a permit.”

The case went back-and-forth in court until April of this year, when Southampton Town Justice Deborah Kooperstein, who had the case because both of Riverhead’s judges recused themselves, threw out all the charges against Mr. Oxman.

He lost the property to foreclosure last year and its new owners have proposed to build a shopping center, with a Christmas Tree Shops as the anchor store.

Mr. Oxman’s notice of claim names as defendants Riverhead Town, town code inspector Richard Downs, former supervisor Phil Cardinale, former town attorney Dawn Thomas, former building department head Leroy Barnes, and former councilmembers George Bartunek and Barbara Blass.

The notice of claim states Mr. Oxman’s civil rights were violated.

“The claim is for money damages for violation of [Mr. Oxman’s] civil rights, the malicious prosecution of baseless criminal proceedings which were [decided] in favor of the claimant on April 1, 2012, and for the town’s negligence and failure to properly train and/or supervise the individually named defendants,” the claim states.

In addition, it states the town acted “with malice and intent to punish” Mr. Oxman “for having exercised his right to engage in the lawful use of real property.”

“I never violated the town code,” Mr. Oxman said. “Now it is time for the Town of Riverhead, Cardinale, Blass, Bartunek, Barnes, and Dawn Thomas to be held accountable for their baseless and malicious actions.”

Town Board members declined to comment on the lawsuit during their regular board meeting Tuesday night after an an audience member asked them about the case.

The board voted to hire the Riverhead-based law firm of Smith, Finkelstein, Lundberg, Isler and Yakaboski to defend them in the new case.

Although town officials said they’ve authorized an appeal of the April ruling, Mr. Oxman said he hasn’t been served.

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