Town orders Baiting Hollow ‘cupola’ removed at owner’s expense

Eugene Lafurno's home two years ago in Baiting Hollow. (Credit: Paul Squire)
Eugene Lafurno’s home two years ago in Baiting Hollow. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Times up for “The Epiphany.”

Eugene Lafurno of Baiting Hollow has been building what town officials call a third and fourth story onto his Founders Path home for several years, and town officials say it’s unsafe and was built without proper permits.

On Tuesday, the Riverhead Town Board approved a resolution to have the town engineering department remove the structure and is expected to charge Mr. Lafurno with demolition costs.

He’s lived there for 36 years and calls his home “The Epiphany” — an illustration of his “free enterprise dream” — and has said it’s modeled after a house located in Remsenburg, which has been listed on the market for over $10 million.

Mr. Lafurno has described the addition as a cupola, a small structure that is built on top of a roof. He’s maintained the town gave him a permit to build the cupola and claims the structure is a form of religious expression and exempt from town height restrictions.

Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz has disagreed and said cupolas aren’t intended for human occupancy.

The town has taken Mr. Lafurno to court over his refusal to take down the structure and Mr. Lafurno was even sentenced to jail for it in 2013.

Two lengthy public hearings have recently been held to discuss how to deal with the structure town officials have deemed unsafe. If an unsafe structure isn’t removed or stabilized, officials say the town is allowed to do the demolishing itself and bill the property owner for the work.

“There is no third and fourth story on that house,” Mr. Lafurno said at a Feb. 18 hearing. “That’s a cupola, the town gave me a permit to build a cupola. Cupolas are protected.

“I’m just a person whose trying to build a bigger house. I’m trying to improve my house.”

At a March 3 hearing, town engineer Ken Testa said there wasn’t enough support to hold the top portion of the structure. He also said the addition has water damage, is in danger of collapsing, and wouldn’t be able to stand up to a hurricane.

Mr. Lafurno countered it survived both the Irene and Sandy storms.

At the end of that hearing, the Town Board told Mr. Lafurno that he had until March 20 to submit a report by a certified engineer showing that the structure met state building code.

The resolution approved Tuesday indicates he did not file such a report by the deadline.

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