Battling over the bay and a barge in Inwood

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Roger Realty Co., the owners of 150 Roger Ave. in Inwood, filed a lawsuit on Dec. 14, against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Town of Hempstead and Inwood Realty Associates Inc., the owners of the neighboring property at 180 Roger Ave., over the clean up and future plans for the site.

Inwood Realty Associates Inc. plans to build a soil-screening station along Jamaica Bay at 180 Roger Ave., and is seeking variances from the town that would allow them to use a shifting machine to sort through the material they bring in and to use a barge to remove the soil.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, a tenant at 150 Roger Ave., stores prints of major movies at this location valued at more than $1 billion, according to court papers. To ensure preservation of the films, some of which date to the 1920s, air temperature, humidity and cleanliness must be strictly monitored, Sony officials said. While the building’s proximity to Kennedy Airport is one of the reasons Sony selected the location, there is concern that the dust and the exhaust from industrial operations could lead the company to look elsewhere.

In the suit, Roger Realty is claiming that the DEC improperly bypassed a State Environmental Quality Review when they ordered the removal of debris that had been left by the previous owners. Inwood Realty agreed to remove nearly 32,000 cubic yards of concrete, rocks, soil and other debris under a consent order they agreed to last year.

The DEC declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

In the lawsuit, Roger Realty Co. also cites the Consent Order Barge Plan, which would allow Inwood Realty Associates to use the bay as a route to remove the debris that was left behind. Contradictions between tax maps of the area and the Russo’s land deed have brought the question of which entity owns the bulkhead over Jamaica Bay to the forefront.

Al D’Agostino, the attorney representing Roger Realty Co. said after the postponement of an Oct. 17 Town of Hempstead hearing, that the town owns any land filled above water based on the Kieft Patent — a 1644 decree named for Dutch Director General William Kieft — that granted settlers in Hempstead rights and title to land.

To allow the building of a dock for the barge, the town would then have to grant an easement to Inwood Realty Associates, according to Hempstead spokesman, Mike Fricchione. “The town hasn’t taken a stance on the issue,” he said. “The town is reviewing the situation and is yet to set a date for a vote.

The ownership of the land was the main topic of discussion at the Oct. 17 hearing, but it was postponed until Jan. 9 –– after the Herald went to press–– to allow all the parties to review the issue. The application for the variances was first scheduled for June 27, but it’s been adjourned four times.

Bram Weber, the attorney representing Inwood Realty, said of the suit, “It is a shame that the neighboring property owner has brought litigation to stop the DEC-approved cleanup of the property which our client voluntarily agreed to do for the benefit of the community. The case brought by the neighboring property owner against the DEC, the Town, and our client is baseless.”

Have an opinion about the legal wrangling? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.