Where did their clothes go?

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The disappearing clothes

According to Salant, who became landlord of the business two years ago and who owns the neighboring Ralph’s Italian Ices, Lee had at least “a couple of months’ notice” before his eviction, and that court hearings began last December. “He was just behind on the rent all of the time,” Salant said.

“An eviction doesn’t happen overnight,” Ciampoli added. “So he knew this for a while. I don’t know if he knew exactly how imminent the … eviction was.”

Ciampoli said that a recent amendment to the Nassau County Charter allowed for the clothes to be removed from the shop when Lee was evicted and put in storage for 30 days. Prior to the change, Ciampoli said, the store’s contents would have been left at curbside.

But even with the delivery of the clothes, the problem was, how to sort the 250 boxes. The Supreme Court appointed attorney Chris Coschignano to act on its behalf to man the dry-cleaner and reunite people with their clothes. Coschignano, who is also a councilman for the Town of Oyster Bay, paid a call to Jim Dandy Cleaners in Wantagh seeking help, and its staff came to the rescue.

On June 8, Coschignano, Jim Dandy owner Florestano Girardi and three of his employees, Ritchie Pagnotta, Joe Girmanti and Girardi’s son, Giovanni, spent the day helping people find their clothes. “When I went to law school,” Coschignano joked, “I never imagined doing this.”

With lots of clothes still left in the shop at the end of the day, the store reopened on June 14 for pickup, and will open one more time this Saturday. Any unclaimed clothes will be brought to the county office of consumer affairs for storage for six months. After that, Ciampoli said, he would seek a court order to give any clothes that are still unclaimed to charity.

Though the situation was handled quickly, Ciampoli said he might seek a change in the law governing evictions that involve a third-party exchange of possessions. “I’ll be working with the sheriff to develop policies so that we can avoid it ahead of time,” he said.
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