A judge has temporarily ordered the town of Cortlandt and Supervisor Linda Puglisi to stop trying to evict nine residents of the Riveredge Trailer Park in Verplanck.
The Riveredge Owners Association filed a lawsuit on Aug. 14 in Westchester Supreme Court that claims the town is trying to take their property illegally.
“This is the third or fourth lawsuit they’ve filed against us,” said Thomas E. Wood, the town attorney. “What they do is play games. A process server goes to serve papers and they claim it’s not their trailer.”
Patrick Garvey, one of the association members suing the town, described “an ongoing pattern of harassment.” He claims the town has destroyed fences, for example, broken a water line and taken five of the six dumpsters owned by the association.
The lawsuit claims that the town wants to evict the tenants so it can convert the property to other commercial uses.
The trailer park is on prime waterfront property on the Hudson, across the river from Bear Mountain State Park. It was owned by James Martin, who operated the Peekskill Seaplane Base from a parcel next to the Riveredge Trailer Park.
Martin deeded the land to the town for use as a park in 1994, but included a provision that residents could continue living in their mobile homes for 10 years after his death. He died in 2006.
“We’ve given them ten years,” Wood said. “They’re fighting to save what they have and they pay nothing.”
Garvey said there are questions about the legitimacy of the lease and the town has sidestepped the eminent domain process.
The town has used “constant eviction proceedings” in Cortlandt Justice Court, the lawsuit states, that have deprived residents of the enjoyment of their homes.
Besides Garvey, the residents include Richard Bonavita, Wayne Calley, Donald Dean, Mike Lane, John Moynihan, Frank Sebok, Arthus Sell and Jose A. Vicente Sr.
They accuse Puglisi and the town of abuse of process and illegal taking. They want the court to declare them the lawful owners, occupants or leaseholders to the property. They are asking for $750,000 in punitive damages and unspecified compensation.
Justice Terry Jane Ruderman scheduled a hearing on Sept. 20 for Puglisi and Cortlandt to show why they should not be stopped from commencing new evictions against the mobile home residents.