Spring means Cascino’s dumping debris… again

Still no word on contempt case before Judge Nichols

COPAKE—At this time of year many people are cleaning up debris around their homes and yards, but Salvatore Cascino is busy hauling in dubious debris and dumping it on his property.

It’s not surprising. And so far, there is no stopping him.

Mr. Cascino, 75, is a dedicated scofflaw who has a 17-year history of violations of federal, state and town laws for illegal dumping and failure to get permits for building and excavating.

A convicted felon, Mr. Cascino was found guilty of both civil and criminal contempt in 2009. He also pleaded guilty to one count of felony second degree offering a false instrument on behalf of his corporations as part of a plea deal in Albany County Supreme Court in June 2012.

Stosh Gansowski and his wife, Carol, have the unpleasant distinction of being close neighbors of the 300-acre property Mr. Cascino calls Copake Valley Farm across from the southern entrance to the Copake hamlet stretching south along the east side of Route 22.

The Gansowskis have a front row seat on Mr. Cascino’s brazen illegal activities and Mr. Gansowski has been trying to find out how his neighbor’s dumping and building in violation of the law can continue without intervention.

He saw several tractor trailer truck loads of unidentified debris being dumped on the Cascino property within the last week. He said, the loads were then quickly leveled, spread out across the land and workers were then sent out to pick up pieces of plastic from amidst the chewed up debris.

He photographed the activities and sent them to Meredith Lee-Clark at the state Attorney General’s Office for answers.

“This has been dragging on since Andrew Cuomo’s stint as attorney general,” Mr. Gansowski told The Columbia Paper this week. Mr. Cuomo was state attorney general from 2007 to 2011. “Now he’s in his second term as governor and nothing is being done,” Mr. Gansowski added.

He said his concerns are not just about what unidentified stuff Mr. Cascino is dumping now, but what he has dumped in the past.

The longtime Copake resident said he is “very frustrated” by the length of time it is taking Columbia County Acting Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols to make a decision on the latest orders to show cause why Mr. Cascino should not be held in contempt of court. Court proceedings on those motions filed by the Town of Copake wrapped up December 11, 2013 after five days of testimony and legal wrangling.

The town, represented by attorney Victor Meyers, presented evidence of Mr. Cascino’s continued failure to comply with court orders in an earlier contempt case, in which the judge directed Mr. Cascino to remove a steel bridge, a stone wall and the illegal fill he dumped in and along the Noster Kill, a protected trout stream. Mr. Cascino was also required to restore the farm stand to its 2006 condition, that is, to undo all the construction work he did on it because he failed to get a building permit for the work in the first place.

Final legal submissions were due in the case by February 5, 2014, but no decision has yet been issued by the judge and additional orders to show cause filed by Attorney Meyers on Copake’s behalf in connection with three illegal construction projects last year have not even been scheduled for court hearings.

Mr. Meyers said by phone this week that he has not heard anything from the court about a pending decision or when the new matters might be heard. He called the situation, “not good,” adding, “I know the judge is busy, but it’s been a long time.”

A phone call and email from The Columbia Paper to Judge Nichols inquiring about the matters were not returned.

Also in the past week, Copake Building Inspector/Zoning Enforcement Officer Edward Ferratto said he went to the Cascino property to investigate a report that the gates were open on the illegally built bridge. The bridge was supposed to be removed years ago and is definitely not supposed to be in use. Mr. Ferratto said the gates were not open when he was there, but he did notice that the large block barricades that used to be there were no longer in place. He also said that dumping and rock crushing activity at the site seems to be on the upswing. Mr. Ferratto documents his visits in a record book and takes photographs.

Another concerned Copake resident, Deborah Cohen, commented by email this week, “While Copake awaits a decision on a contempt trial that ended more than a year and a half ago, the illegal dumping continues on Sal Cascino’s property—day after day after day. This is Cascino doing what he does best: thumbing his nose at every level of authority.”

Asked for an update on where court action by the Office of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on behalf of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) stands, Deputy Press Secretary Nick Benson replied by email:
“We’re still in the discovery phase of our case against Cascino for alleged violations of the 2012 consent order prohibiting him from bringing unrecognizable materials to the Copake property. Last week we got a favorable decision from the Court in response to our motion to compel disclosure. Cascino has until May 16 to give us the documents we requested, as well as answer our interrogatories. As you indicated, we have been in contact with Stosh Gansowski and other neighbors, who have reported when they’ve seen new piles or dumping on the Copake site. During the past couple weeks, we’ve had DEC investigators follow up with two site visits, and we’re currently talking with DEC about further enforcement possibilities.”

With regard to the violations of both state Highway Law and Vehicle and Traffic Law that Mr. Cascino has hanging over his head 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. Benson said, “no comment at this time.”

An email to Mr. Cascino’s attorney Brian Gardner for comment on these matters was not returned.

To contact Diane Valden email

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