COPAKE—Yet another court restraining order has been issued against Salvatore Cascino.
This one, issued May 29 by Columbia County Judge Jonathan Nichols, prohibits Mr. Cascino from working on and/or opening the farm stand building along Route 22 and also from doing excavation work on his property.
Mr. Cascino, 73, a convicted scofflaw, lives in Larchmont and owns 300 acres along the east side of Route 22, across from the southern entrance to the Copake hamlet. He calls the place Copake Valley Farm and for the past 16 years has racked up violations of federal, state and town laws there for illegal dumping, building and excavating without proper permits.
Since July 2012, in violation of a stop-work order issued by Copake Building Inspector/Zoning Enforcement Officer Ed Ferratto, Mr. Cascino has essentially rebuilt two small structures—making them one larger building known as “the farm stand,” and has allegedly been dumping unknown materials and engaging in major excavation work at the southern end of the property; both activities are violations of town code.
An existing restraining order dating back to 2010 already prohibits all of these activities.
Instead of rebuilding the farm stand, Mr. Cascino was directed by the court to return it to the condition it was in prior to 2006 when he first started work on the structure without permits. He was also supposed to be undoing a list of things he was found to have done illegally. Among those tasks, he was directed to remove a steel bridge he built over the Noster Kill, remove wood pallets and construction materials stored on the property, remove fill (a minimum of 150,000 cubic yards) dumped on the property, remove of a stone wall and remove solid waste.
Copake’s attorney on Cascino-related matters, Victor Meyers, filed an order to show cause on the town’s behalf. Mr. Cascino is due in court July 31 to tell Judge Nichols why he should not be held in contempt again, both on the prior restraining order and the new one. Mr. Cascino was found guilty of both civil and criminal contempt in 2009.
Mr. Cascino also received a letter from the state Department of Transportation’s Columbia County Permit Engineer Joseph A. Visconti advising him that he is in violation of both state Highway Law and Vehicle and Traffic Law for not getting a permit to work in the state highway right-of-way and for the illegal work he performed in the right-of-way on State Route 22. Mr. Visconti said in his letter that all the material used and associated with the illegal work—concrete, granite cobbles, drainage work and the discharge of water onto the state right-of-way—must be immediately removed and the site “re-established to the way it was prior to any construction you have done.” The removal of material was supposed to have been done within 30 days of the date of the letter “or the State will be required to remove this at your expense.” The letter from the DOT was dated July 17, 2012. Neither the voluntary removal, nor the removal of the material at Mr. Cascino’s expense has happened. Contacted last month and again this month for information about when the DOT might act to enforce the consequences for these violations, DOT Spokesperson Jennifer Post said this week that the DOT is consulting with the State Attorney General’s Office about a potential enforcement action.
“Often we need to consult with the Attorney General to determine what is the next step,” said Ms. Post, noting “enforcement is a multi-step process.”
At Town Board meetings over the past few months neighbors have questioned what actions the board has taken to address the unpermitted activity at Mr. Cascino’s property.
In a letter to the Town Board dated May 8 Copake Falls resident Deborah Cohen wrote, “What are you doing about Sal Cascino? If you don’t do something fast, you might as well erect a billboard at the southern end of town that reads ‘Welcome—We Do NOT Enforce Zoning Laws.’ All of Sal’s cronies will be very, very happy. And you will have allowed this beautiful town to be destroyed.”
Copake Supervisor Jeff Nayer reported at the June 13 Town Board meeting that the board asked Mr. Meyers to again pursue a remedy in court and the judge had issued the most-recent restraining order.
A call to Mr. Cascino’s attorney Brian Gardner for comment on his client’s behalf was not returned.
To contact Diane Valden email .