A YEAR AND A HALF AFTER MUDSLIDE, RESIDENTS CONTINUE TO PUSH FOR ACTION
September 22, 2015 -- Several neighbors of 14 Bay Avenue, the house that is now precariously perched on a high precipice overlooking Hempstead Harbor after a mudslide took most of its backyard and much of its patio during a heavy rain in the spring of 2014, turned out at last Tuesday’s Sea Cliff Village Board meeting seeking an update from the Village regarding the homeowner’s efforts to remediate the property. For the past year and a half the residents have from time to time addressed the Board requesting information as well as the Village's support in pressing the property owner to address the issue.
The property, with the wound in the cliffside still clearly visible from the water into which a peninsula of debris still protrudes, was purchased this past January by Bay Avenue Commons LLC, which shares the same address as the Malachite Group, a Mineola based commercial real estate investment firm, that according to its website owns more than 4 million square feet of retail space across the country.
At its monthly meeting this past July, the Village Board approved an agreement with the firm Newport Engineering for support services related to the retaining wall collapse at 14 Bay Avenue. And two days later, on July 15, 2015, Buildings Superintendent Drew Lawrence sent a letter to the owner of the property, demanding that he submit plans for remediating the eroded slope within ten days. The letter points out that a boom that had been placed in the water to protect the harbor from debris and a tarp put on the slope to protect the hillside from further erosion had both been removed.
“The condition of the premises has been worsening over time,” Mr. Lawrence writes. “More soil has been lost from the upland area and the cliffside has been further eroded. The continued erosion is putting the premises at risk of additional damage, and also may result in further damage to Hempstead Harbor and possibly to adjoining properties and Bay Avenue.”
The letter calls on the homeowner to put in place a plan “forthwith to assure that the conditions will not worsen.” He continues, “leaving the premises ‘as is’ is not acceptable, and violates several provisions of the New York State Building Code.” The letter does note that the owner had retained the services of a consultant “to assist in designing a concept that would remedy the conditions,” and that the consultant had submitted “concept sketches” in June, but that no plan final plan had been submitted to the village.
In response to questions at last week's Village Board meeting, Mayor Bruce Kennedy stated that the Village engineer’s job is to review any plans for remediating the slope developed by the homeowner’s engineer to ensure that they are adequate to protect the slope and prevent a future occurrence of what had happened in May 2014. He said he believed that even though it is a private property issue, the board decided it was appropriate for the Village to provide this sort of assistance to the Bay Avenue residents.
Tom Pitegoff, who lives in the home to the south of 14 Bay Avenue, was the first to speak during the public comment period at the September 15 Village Board meeting. He said that residents continue to be very concerned about the likelihood of further damage, but were pleased to see some action taking place at the property with efforts to improve drainage there, and soil boring being done to test the composition of the soil, apparently in preparation for a remediation plan.
Resident Chris Doran, whose home is directly to the north of 14 Bay Avenue asked Mayor Kennedy whether the property owner had submitted such a plan within the ten day deadline, as had been required by village as stated in the July 15th letter. Village Attorney Brian Stolar responded, saying that no such plan has been submitted but that the homeowner expected such plans to be submitted shortly and that he has been in close contact with the owner and the consultant.
Resident Dennis Buckley expressed concerns about the upkeep of the front of the property on Bay Avenue, as it has become overgrown, and if anything could be done about that situation. The Mayor said that issue would be referred to the Building Department.
After residents asked that a Trustee be appointed as a “liaison” to the group of Bay Avenue neighbor, the Mayor and Mr. Stolar said that the Village would provide them with regular updates, about every two weeks or so.
A few days after the meeting Mr. Pitegoff spoke to Northwordnews. He said that he and his neighbors have essentially two concerns. The first is the danger to people’s safety and neighboring homes that is posed by the slope that continues to be eroded by the elements; and second, the upkeep of the property which he said has “has gone to pot.”
“We want to stay friendly,” he said. “ We are seeking a resolution. We greatly want to get this done, and for it to be done right.” He said that the Bay Avenue neighbors would continue to remain visible at Village Board meetings and to urge the property owner to take action.
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