Judge Pulls Brakes on West Hook Settlement: Advocates Speak Out

Advocates gathered outside after the court hearing; Photo by Jennifer Korn

The Town of Clarkstown proposed a settlement with the property owner of 20 Old Stone Road, who is accused of illegally destroying an estimated 125 town trees, illegally adding a second floor story to his house, and performing other unpermitted work at or around his property. Judge Scott Ugell adjourned the hearing to take time to read through the agreement. 

“We’re seeing this today for the very first time,” said Ugell. 

The property owner’s lawyer, Donald Feerick, said that all the conflicts were resolved, including the soil disturbance. Feerick said his client has also agreed to replant 150 trees. He claimed that besides a railing on the homeowner’s deck, “every other piece of work has been done according to the plan and I believe the town is happy with everything,” said Feerick.

Ugell asked Feerick if the work had already been completed. Feerick said it is partially done and should take an estimated 90 days to finish. 

Advocates who attended the meeting said they did not believe the town should reach a settlement until the active police investigation into the destroyed trees is complete. 

“I don’t think that this should be resolved until the criminal case is resolved,” said resident Pamela Hudson.

Town Attorney Leslie Kahn disagreed. “The town did not bring the defendant in court for that because the town has absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this defendant actually took the trees down,” said Kahn. “So he’s agreeing to repopulate the trees notwithstanding the fact that there’s still a criminal investigation pending.” 

“It’s an insult to the public, I believe, to suggest that we have no evidence,” countered resident Marvin Baum. “He continued even after all this went on. In June, he was continuing to maintain the lawn on our property, as his lawn. After it was surveyed and everything.”

Feerick said his client is taking further steps to resolve the issues at hand, including paying for the tree replanting, reimbursing the town for the surveying costs, and hiring an engineer and architect to develop stormwater and landscape plans for the town’s review.

“I have a landowner, a property owner in a residential piece of property who wishes to enjoy the solitude,” said Feerick.

Residents were opposed to the defendant’s stance. 

“This person is claiming he wants solitude,” said Baum. “He wants solitude, including our property, and he used our property to create views, that’s what wasn’t said in court.”

View from the town hiking path adjacent to 20 Old Stone Road, where an estimated 125 trees were cleared; Photo by Jennifer Korn 

Town Supervisor Candidate Jeffrey Greenberg attended the hearing in support of the advocates. “I think the judge was smart to take his time to thoroughly review the case and not just accept the word of the representatives of the court,” said Greenberg. 

The Town Supervisor’s Office said that in addition to the 150 trees to be planted, “a $25,000 line of credit will be posted for any potential loss of trees.” The office said it will have further comment on the matter after the Aug. 26 hearing.

Advocates said they will be disappointed if the settlement passes through the court. 

“What they destroyed, they cannot restore,” said Hudson. “And this agreement, I think, is a joke.”

Baum further explained that the trees planted will not be mature, and therefore will not equate to what was lost. 

The trees planted will be “of various types and sizes and measures will be taken to ensure the viability of the trees,” said the Supervisor’s Office. 

Only stumps remain after a heavily wooded portion of town land was demolished; Photo by Jennifer Korn

“This will set the precedent for what happens in the town,” said Baum.

This is a developing story.