Courtesy Chris Coschignano
Karyl Taylor, a senior at Clarke High School, was reuinted with her prom dress with the help of court-appointed receiver Chris Coschignano, left, and Jim Dandy Cleaners owner Florestano Girardi.
It was a chaotic first week of June for Salisbury residents who, after dropping off their clothes at a popular laundry, Lewis Dry Cleaners, on Carman Avenue, returned to find that the shop’s owner had been evicted and it was empty, with no clothing in sight.
After failing to pay rent for months, Moo Wong Lee, the owner of the business for about 20 years, was evicted on June 5 by Nassau County Sheriff Michael Sposato. According to County Attorney John Ciampoli, Lee’s unpaid rent was nearing $40,000.
As word of the eviction spread, hundreds of emails filled the inboxes of community leader Helen Meittines and County Legislator Norma Gonsalves, who lives in East Meadow. The phone number on a “For Rent” sign in the window is the cell phone of the building’s landlord, Richard Salant. As calls flooded in, Salant directed callers to the county’s Department of Consumer Affairs, which informed residents that the clothes were being delivered to a storage unit in Uniondale.
The incident caused quite a stir in this small, tight-knit community. Among the lost items were prom dresses, wedding gowns, police uniforms and expensive suits and pants.
“The emails were coming in out the ying-yang,” said Gonsalves, who quickly contacted Ciampoli and County Executive Ed Mangano. “I put myself in people’s shoes,” she added. “How would I react?”
Within hours, Ciampoli filed an emergency order in State Supreme Court to have the clothes returned from the Uniondale storage facility to the dry-cleaner, with Salant’s permission. Two days later, some 250 boxes of clothes were delivered to Lewis Cleaners, and the following day, hundreds of customers showed up, hoping to be find their clothes. “All told, when we’re done with this,” said Ciampoli, “we’re going to have well over 1,000 people who were able to recover their clothes.”