COPAKE—Lackawanna Road is closed to through traffic and has been for three weeks. When it will reopen is unclear.
Less than a mile long, the road runs between Weed Mine Road on the east end and State Route 22 on the west. Though the town owns the road, the town did not have anything to do with closing it—the State Department of Transportation (DOT) did—to allow Salvatore Cascino, who owns the property on both sides of the road to fix violations, some dating back nine years.
Mr. Cascino, 78, of Larchmont, Westchester County is a convicted felon who has spent the past 20 years amassing violations of federal, state and town laws for illegal dumping, building and excavating at a place he calls Copake Valley Farm, along the east side of Route 22.
Copake Councilman Stanley “Stosh” Gansowski, who lives on Weed Mine Road at the east end of Lackawanna, inquired about the status of the road closure at the September 11 Town Board meeting.
Town Supervisor Jeffrey Nayer said the state closed the road without notifying the town about it.
The state was under the mistaken impression that Lackawanna was a private road, said Mr. Nayer, adding he believed the road would re-open soon, once the state inspects “the corrections” Mr. Cascino has made.
Mr. Nayer said the road should not have been closed in the first place and that a ramp should have been installed to allow traffic through.
Copake Highway Superintendent Bill Gregory told The Columbia Paper this week, that based on his conversations with the supervisor and Mr. Cascino, that Mr. Cascino was “going along Route 22 and fixing” everything he did in the state right-of-way without permission.
The state Attorney General’s Office, which is handling the DOT case against Mr. Cascino, filed a summons in state Supreme Court back in July 2015 describing five locations along Route 22 where Mr. Cascino installed fences, gates, a boulder, access road improvements, stone retaining walls, various types of vegetation, signs, culverts, drainage structures and cement brick pillars—all on state property without permits. The violations date back to “on or before June 1, 2009.”
Mr. Gregory said Mr. Cascino had to replace a guard rail, install culvert pipes, close the farm stand entry and fix the west end of Lackawanna where he illegally constructed stone walls on both sides of the road and had to replace a culvert pipe. Currently the stone walls have been removed several feet back from Route 22 and there is a slight drop-off, several feet wide between the Route 22 and Lackawanna road surfaces. The west end of the road is blocked by a line of orange and white plastic drums with a “road closed” sign in the middle.
Mr. Gregory said Mr. Nayer had spoken to DOT Regional Engineer Tom Story, and was told the work had to be inspected before the road could reopen.
Mr. Gregory said he has received two inquiries from the public about the status of the road.
Despite multiple attempts to get answers to questions about the road closure from DOT, calls and an email were not returned.
The day after press deadline New York State Department of Transportation Hudson Valley Region Public Information Officer Gina M. DiSarro sent an email saying the location The Columbia Paper had inquired about “is the subject of ongoing litigation and NYSDOT can not comment on such cases.”
In another Cascino matter, an application for site plan review before the Town Planning Board has stagnated.
Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight said by phone this week that Mr. Cascino had submitted drawings relating to several buildings on his property that he built then expanded in 2013 without bothering to get building permits. The buildings included two large, windowless, square, flat-roofed, concrete-block buildings sided with red wooden boards and one concrete-block garage near the house.
The town entered into a settlement agreement with Mr. Cascino in March 2017, whereby Mr. Cascino was to pay the town a $25,000 civil penalty, then, within 60 days, was to comply with the town building code and go through the processes required to apply for and secure building permits for the structures, which may involve appearances before the Town Planning Board and/or the Zoning Board of Appeals, with no guarantee that the permits would be issued. If he did not do that, then he would have to pay a $10,000 civil penalty for each violation, according to the agreement.
Mr. Haight said Mr. Cascino was represented by Frank Peteroy, an architect and Zoning Board of Appeals member, on the application, which was submitted about 14 months ago. The applicant appeared at meetings for a couple of months but then stopped coming. Mr. Haight said the Planning Board notified the applicant that a site plan with all the existing and planned buildings was needed. After nothing was heard from the applicant for about a year, the Planning Board notified him that the application would be closed out. Mr. Haight said Town Code requires that if there is no movement on an application after six months it will be taken off the books.
Mr. Haight said after Mr. Peteroy indicated that he and Mr. Cascino wanted the application to remain open, another letter was sent telling them that some movement forward on the application must happen or it will be closed.
So while Mr. Cascino started the process to get the building permits, it has stalled. A call to Mr. Peteroy about the application was not returned by press deadline.
In yet another matter, Mr. Cascino’s appeal of Acting State Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichol’s decision to lock him up for contempt of court is still ongoing.
Mr. Cascino spent 573 days in jail between February 25, 2016 and January 12, 2018 because he failed to prove to Judge Nichols that he had complied with court orders to remove 9,650 cubic yards of illegally dumped solid waste as he was directed to do (among other things) in a February 25, 2016 decision.
Mr. Cascino’s attorney, Greg Lubow, filed an appeal on the issue of whether Mr. Cascino and his two LLCs: 13 Lackawanna Properties and Copake Valley Farm–all listed as defendants in a lawsuit brought by the Town of Copake–have complied with the judge’s order.
The State Supreme Court, Appellate Division ordered Mr. Cascino “released from the custody of the Columbia County Sheriff pending determination” of the December 22, 2017 appeal of the order of Judge Nichols’ court.
The Town of Copake’s attorney on Cascino matters, Victor Meyers, said by phone Tuesday, September 18 that he was in the process of proofreading a brief he planned to file this week with the Appellate Division. After that Mr. Cascino will have a chance to reply, then documents in the case will be fully submitted. The Appellate Division will then set a court date to hear oral arguments, perhaps in November or December, said Mr. Meyers, adding that a decision will come six to eight weeks later—sometime in 2019.
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