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Copake residents ask who will enforce Cascino court order


COPAKE–Who’s watching Salvatore Cascino? Inquiring Copake citizens want to know.

   Last month, Acting State Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols found Mr. Cascino guilty of both criminal and civil contempt for violating the November 27, 2006 temporary restraining order that prohibited Mr. Cascino from constructing, excavating or depositing anything on his 300-acre property called Copake Valley Farm.

   In another matter related to Mr. Cascino, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo this week announced that his office was suing Mr. Cascino for the environmental damage as the result of his dumping activities in Dutchess County. The attorney general has also previously taken action against Mr. Cascino for illegal dumping in Copake.

   A resident of Larchmont, Mr. Cascino owns a Bronx-based waste-hauling business and has a 12-year history of federal, state and town law violations on his property along the east side of Route 22.

   As a consequence of his June 9 ruling, Judge Nichols ordered Mr. Cascino to:

*Remove the stone wall and all the materials deposited on his property in contravention of the restraining order

*Immediately cease all construction work on the farm stand and perform no more work until further order of the court

*Pay the town for its costs and attorneys’ fees associated with prosecuting the contempt case.

   At the July 9 Copake Town Board meeting resident Vicki Dodson asked the board who will monitor Mr. Cascino’s removal of those things mentioned in the judge’s order and where will it all go?

   According to Town Supervisor Reggie Crowley, that will be up to the court, though those details were not specifically defined in the court’s decision.

   Mr. Cascino has filed a notice of appeal in the case, which means he has 60 days to file that appeal, Mr. Crowley said.

   Councilwoman Linda Gabaccia said that Mr. Cascino is disputing the claim that the town’s attorney fees were $21,000, the amount Mr. Cascino is required to pay back.

   Resident Morris Ordover questioned whether the restraining order is still in effect and who is responsible for monitoring what is going on there now.

   Ms. Gabaccia said the restraining order is definitely in effect and that she was aware that citizens are recording ongoing activities at the site. Anyone who photographs activity on the property was urged to turn on the camera’s date stamp to insure the incidents were properly documented.

   Someone observed that the pile of wooden pallets on the property appeared to be growing, and Ms. Gabaccia was asked to check with the town’s attorneys handling Cascino matters, about whether town Zoning Enforcement Officer Ed Ferratto is authorized to go on the property to check for violations.

   Attorney Victor Meyers, who represents the town in its litigation against Mr. Cascino, told The Columbia Paper Wednesday morning that the town will have to make sure that Mr. Cascino complies with the judge’s order, but that unless Mr. Cascino gives permission for the zoning enforcement officer to go on the property, Mr. Ferratto will have to obtain a search warrant every time he wants to check on the situation.

   Mr. Meyers then said he may have to write a letter to the judge to get the monitoring specifics spelled out.

   Current activity at the Cascino property involves the construction of a house that Mr. Cascino was given permission to build.

   The home site is in the same location as the former Duksa house, torn down by Mr. Cascino, situated along the south side of Lackawanna Road, across from the multiple-bay brick garage building.

   The Town Planning Board gave the approval to Mr. Cascino’s representative David Wiener and his attorney Anna Kirschner, June 4 following two-month site plan review.

   Mr. Cascino plans to build a 4-bedroom, 5-bathroom, 2-story house with a 2-car garage. The dimensions of the house are 62 by 64-feet and 33-feet high. The house plan had to undergo a site plan review because, while the project did not exceed the $400,000 cost threshold, it did exceed the 3,500-square-foot habitable space limit, which triggers a review.

   The house will be located on a parcel of about 8.5 acres that is separate from the rest of the property and is therefore not subject to the restrictions of the restraining order, according to Planning Board Chair Marcia Becker.

   But on July 9, resident Deborah Cohen took a photo of someone operating an excavator digging in a location several hundred yards east of the house location on the east side of a pond.

   The machine doing the digging bears the logo D & W Excavating, a business in which Town Councilman Walter Kiernan is a partner.

   Reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Kiernan confirmed that he owns the machine, but said he had nothing to do with the digging. He said the excavator is on loan to Mr. Cascino as the return of a favor, because Mr. Cascino let his family use a corn dryer.

   As a dairy farmer, Mr. Kiernan said he and his family can’t pay Mr. Cascino back for the use of his equipment with money so they use the “bartering system.”

   Mr. Kiernan said he believed Mr. Cascino must have needed some dirt from near the pond to “level out” the location where the house foundation is being dug due to the rock formation there. Mr. Kiernan said he did not personally arrange the equipment loan and had no contact with Mr. Cascino or his representatives about it.

   Asked whether the excavation site on the far side of the pond is part of the 8+ acre house parcel, both Deputy Building Inspector Don Shadic and Building Inspector Ralph Shadic said they do not think it is, which means no digging should be happening there..

   No one answered the phone at the Copake Valley Farm number Tuesday afternoon.

   Adding to the litigation involving Mr. Cascino, at press deadline late Tuesday night, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued a press release announcing that he is suing Mr. Cascino, “the owner and operator of a waste dump in the Town of Dover, Dutchess County, for causing the destruction of a protected wetland and other serious damages to natural resources.” Mr. Cascino has faced repeated action from law enforcement for damaging the state’s environment, according to the release.

   The suit charges that Mr. Cascino and a company he owns and operates, Ten Mile River, LLC, began dumping construction debris on the 18-acre property in 2003 without obtaining the required state license.

   The debris came from a solid waste processing plant in the Bronx that Mr. Cascino owns.

   The suit also charges that Mr. Cascino filled large sections of a state-protected wetland and adjacent areas on the site with the debris, engaged in construction activities at the site that discharged pollution into a state-protected trout stream and its tributary, and disturbed the banks of both water bodies–all without obtaining required approval by the state.

   The Attorney General sued Mr. Cascino for similar violations in Copake in March 2007.

   Mr. Cascino’s activities damaged protected wetlands, a trout stream, and the habitat of an endangered species.  As a result of this action, Mr. Cascino was required to remove waste from the wetlands, discontinue the use of a bridge he illegally built on the site, pay a civil penalty of $82,500, and donate $50,000 to protect the habitat of an endangered species. The Attorney General’s office continues to monitor environmental compliance issues at this site, the release says.

   To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@ColumbiaPaper.com.


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