Lawsuit Seeks to Unseat Saltaire Officials
By David Crohn

Two longtime Saltaire residents want to see all of the village’s trustees and its administrator kicked out of office.

Former trustee Noel Feustel and his wife Victoria Petersen insist their legal challenge has nothing to do with the village’s suit against them, which was dismissed last year. They seek to remove Saltaire trustees Bruce Rich, Hugh O’Brien, Pia Notaro and Robert Cox. Village Administrator Mario Posillico and Mayor Scott Rosenbloom were also named.

Feustel and Petersen accuse the elected officials of voter fraud and voter registration fraud, and allege that Posillico is corrupt and has stolen gas from the village. Feustel also claims to have documentation that proves that some Fire Islanders have voted twice, with one couple voting in the national elections in Ocean Beach and in NYC.

Feustel says that he and his attorney, Barry Kaman, have also filed a malicious prosecution claim against the village for what they are calling selective enforcement of village code.

“Throughout the whole month of June when we were shut down and ticketed, other people were doing home repairs,” Feustel said.

O’Brien called the lawsuits retaliatory. But Feustel denies this, saying he is simply pursuing what he sees to be justice. “We are people with principles. Most people don’t have the resources to fight the fight,” Feustel said.

O’Brien replies that the allegations “would be libelous outside the context of an affidavit. “He’s taking stuff, throwing it against the wall, and seeing if it sticks.”

And it all began as a dispute over some fix-ups, when Feustel began renovating the Saltaire family home he acquired last spring. He says “A family of squirrels had nested inside.”

As in most Fire Island communities, Saltaire requires permits for major structural work, which cannot take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Thinking that “replacing a few windows and fixing the roof” wouldn’t be classified as major structural work, Feustel and his crew began work in late May.

But on May 31, 2005, Saltaire security personnel issued a stop-work order. When the work didn’t stop, the village sued. But Judge John H. Jones from the Suffolk County Supreme Court agreed with the Feustels that the repairs were not “structural in nature.” The decision said “[the work was] not performed in violation of Village Code,” and the case was dismissed in December 2005.

The village appealed and is awaiting a decision; work on the house subsequently continued but has not been finished, Feustel said. Meanwhile, the Feustels countersued.

In a suit filed in Suffolk County Supreme Court, Mr. Feustel alleged that the village officials were guilty of misconduct and, as non-Suffolk county residents, were holding office illegally. On December 15, 2005 the court denied the application and granted the village’s motion to dismiss.

Unsatisfied with the legal process in Suffolk County, the couple made the same charges at the state level in Appellate Court in Brooklyn. Saltaire’s officials dodged a second bullet when this case was dismissed as too similar to the one in Suffolk. The Feustels recently filed a motion to reargue the decision, and are awaiting a response.

As the village’s appeal to the Suffolk County Supreme Court and the Feustels’ suit in state Appellate Court linger, both parties see no end in sight. Feustel says he feels “stuck in legal limbo,” and maintains that “we still haven’t had our day in court.”

The courts ruled against the beleaguered litigators a third time when they sought to prevent the village court from holding sessions on Saturdays, which the Feustels argued interfered with their religious practices. However, the request for a different day of the week was granted by the village at the time and switched to the following Monday, August 1, 2005.

In December, the village offered a formal statement of regret—not an apology per se—and may even consider paying the Feustels’ legal fees. According to Feustel, Cox called in December to try and work things out and offer this letter of regret. Feustel told The News he had said, “You sued us, Bob. Come on. Fire Poscillico. That is nonnegotiable.”

Meanwhile, the original lawsuit’s ruling against the village raised concerns over what may be inconsistencies in village ordinances, which have not been amended since 1979.

Chapter 18, which provides building guidelines, reads in part: “Construction must be commenced in time to ensure that the structure is enclosed by finished exterior walls and roofs, and that interior walls, floors and all construction outside the enclosed areas, including decks, walls and any other platforms, are completed no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Friday preceding Memorial Day of any year. Unless a structure is so enclosed and floors and decks completed by that day, no further work on the structure or its appurtenances may be performed between the Friday preceding Memorial Day and September 15 of the same year.”

The village has since begun to address the chapter. “We are in the process of rewriting the code,” said O’Brien.