Federal suit dismissed — new one gets filed

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Larry Oxman lost his property on Route 58 to foreclosure as it got tied up in litigation. A Christmas Tree Shops is now planned for the site.
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Larry Oxman lost his property on Route 58 to foreclosure as it got tied up in litigation.

A $10 million federal lawsuit claiming Riverhead Town officials violated the civil rights of realtor Larry Oxman and Riverhead Park Corp was dismissed last week in a case that dates back to 2004 after the town filed illegal clearing charges against Mr. Oxman.

The 2007 lawsuit was dismissed on the grounds that Mr. Oxman and RPC never filed a lawsuit or sought a zoning board of appeals decision challenging the stop work order issued against them in 2004.

But Mr. Oxman filed another $10 million federal lawsuit Monday, claiming the town engaged in “malicious prosecution” in the case against him, according to the new lawsuit.

United States District Court Judge Arthur Spatt’s March 28 decision states that Mr. Oxman and RPC “have failed to exhaust available administrative remedies” before taking the case to federal court.

Judge Spatt’s decision also ruled that the officials named in the suit, which included former Supervisor Phil Cardinale and other council members, could not be sued personally because they were acting in an official capacity at the time.

“The town brought 52 court proceedings against Mr. Oxman and this was the first time in the tortured history of this case that they won,” said Andrew Campanelli, Mr. Oxman’s attorney. “The town’s record  is 1 and 51 at this point, and this was dismissed not on the merits of the case but for procedural reasons.”

He predicted the town’s victory will be short lived.

Mr. Oxman also filed a notice of claim last year against the town, this time claiming malicious prosecution and seeking $10 million in damages. That claim became a full fledged lawsuit on Monday, Mr. Campanelli said.

“The town has never proven that Mr. Oxman has done anything wrong yet in this case, and yet they continue to appeal it,” Mr. Campanelli said, claiming that the town has spent more than $200,000 fighting the case.

Mr. Oxman received documentation a few years ago that the town spent at least $150,000 on the case, Mr. Campanelli said.

“I’ve never seen such a complete and utter waste of taxpayer resources in my life,” Mr. Campanelli said.

The lawsuit was filed by Riverhead Park Corp, its late president Stanley Blumenstein and Mr. Oxman. Mr. Oxman and Mr. Blumenstein were partners in RPC, which owned a 13-acre property on Route 58, just east of Riverhead Raceway. In 2004 they began clearing the land for proposed agricultural use, days before the town was scheduled to rezone that property to a zone that would allow less-intense development.

The town issued a stop work order and issued 51 building code violations, including charges that RPC filled in a wetland.

While Mr. Oxman lost the federal lawsuit, he has come out on top so far in the lawsuits filed in state Supreme Court.

The town took RPC to state Supreme Court in 2004, and in an extended legal case, the town’s case was thrown out in October 2011 by state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Farneti. The case was thrown out because the town failed to submit papers in opposition to a 2010 ruling dismissing the case because the Town Board never passed a resolution to authorize the lawsuit.

The town has since appealed the 2011 ruling.

The 51 building code violations also were dismissed last year in Southampton Town Justice Court, which got the case because Riverhead’s two judges recused themselves.

Over the course of the nine-year litigation, Mr. Oxman eventually lost the property to foreclosure and Riverhead Park Corp filed for bankrupcy. Its new owner, Saber Riverhead LLC, has begun worked on a 122,000-square-foot shopping center that will have a Dick’s Sporting Goods and a Christmas Tree Shop store there, among others.

One of the uses Mr. Oxman originally claimed to be clearing the site for in 2004 was a Christmas tree farm.

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