State agrees: time to tear down Sal’s bridge

COPAKE—Salvatore Cascino’s illegally built steel bridge may yet come down.

During a 2009 trial related to a lawsuit originally filed by the Town of Copake in 2006, Acting Supreme Court Judge Jonathan D. Nichols ordered Mr. Cascino to remove the 30-foot-wide steel bridge he illegally constructed over the Noster Kill, a protected trout stream.

Removal of the bridge was just one task on a long list of things Mr. Cascino was supposed to do or stop doing to remedy bad deeds like illegally dumping hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of solid waste and construction without permits, which he did on his 300-acre property along the east side of Route 22.

Mr. Cascino, 79, of Larchmont, Westchester County is a convicted felon who has spent the past 21 years amassing violations of federal, state and town laws for illegal dumping, building and excavating at a place he calls Copake Valley Farm.

After another trial in 2013, the resulting court decision again ordered the removal of the steel bridge under supervision of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

It is now 13 years after the original court order and the bridge still stands.

That didn’t sit well with Copake Councilman Stanley “Stosh” Gansowski, a neighbor of Mr. Cascino’s, who has had a front row seat to all his unlawful activities over the decades.

Since the beginning of this year, Mr. Gansowski, with the assistance of Tom McCarthy, an aide to Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th), has been working with DEC Region 4 Attorney Tony Luisi, Attorney General’s Office Policy Analyst Jeremy E. Magliaro and George Casey, a project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to get state officials to pursue the court-ordered removal of the bridge, Mr. Gansowski said by phone this week.

On September 27, the Town Board approved a resolution, which states:

“The Town of Copake requests that the State of New York and the New York Department of Conservation (“DEC”) demand, direct, and oversee the removal by 13 Lackawanna Properties, LLC, Salvatore Cascino, and Copake Valley Farm, LLC, of the unlawfully constructed bridge over the Nosterkill, under the supervision of DEC, as Ordered by Supreme Court.”

Mr. Gansowski announced at the October 10 Town Board meeting that the above mentioned state and federal agencies had agreed to “take over the lawsuit” and see that Mr. Cascino follows through with the bridge removal. He also said that Mr. Cascino had paid a $120,000 fine to DEC in connection with the construction of the bridge over the protected trout stream without permission.

In response to a request for verification of the DEC’s involvement, the DEC said by email, “NYSDEC is currently pursuing enforcement against Mr. Cascino and his companies to resolve several violations of Environmental Conservation Law and DEC regulations. Since this is a pending legal matter, we are unable to provide further information at this time.”

The Columbia Paper received no response from the AG’s Office about the matter.

Supervisor Jeff Nayer told The Columbia Paper it is possible that the town could once again have sued to uphold the judge’s order, but the town by itself is not in a position to enforce or monitor the removal of the bridge.

Mr. Gansowski has been the Town Board’s representative working with Trout Unlimited, a non-profit organization with the mission to bring “all parties to the table to find proactive solutions that meet the challenges facing coldwater fisheries. We work to protect important habitat, reconnect degraded waterways and restore trout populations.

“The best conservation work comes from true partnerships between landowners, agencies, non-profits, municipalities and other stakeholders.” (

The organization has been inspecting/evaluating culverts in the town to determine which ones are most in need of replacement to improve water flow and will assist with securing funding.

Mr. Gansowski and the group were particularly interested in the situation Mr. Cascino’s bridge had created on the Noster Kill, where, for years there had been a dirt passageway that the farmer across the road could travel to get to his fields on the other side of the stream. Mr. Cascino’s bridge ruined that passage, causing it to wash out and necessitating that the farmer take a two-mile-round-trip detour to get to the other side.

Trout Unlimited was instrumental in building a “ford bridge” across the stream, a road or trail stream crossing structure with a stone base that would allow the farmer to cross through the stream and also ensure passage for aquatic organisms. The solution, unfortunately, came too late to help the farmer, who moved away.

Mr. Gansowski said the “bridge is a hindrance.” He said where the Cascino bridge is was once a deep fishing hole, where trout could live even during times of low water. Mr. Cascino filled in the hole to build his bridge, leaving the fish high and dry. Mr. Gansowski said it is his hope that once the bridge is removed, the stream can be restored.

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