City finds violations on Hen Island – Prior inspections weren’t performed as reported
By Christian Falcone – Rye Sound Shore Review
April 17, 2009

A recent city inspection of the much-publicized Hen Island has revealed numerous violations. The city has asked the county to address additional concerns falling under their jurisdiction.

On April 1, the city performed an inspection of the 26-acre privately owned island lying off Milton Harbor on the Long Island Sound and subsequently issued several violations to Kudor Island Colony Inc., a corporation made up of seven island inhabitants. The city also sent a letter to Westchester County’s commissioner of environmental health asking to look into alleged health and environmental violations; there has been no response yet and the county has been silent on the issue since a controversial 2007 inspection of the site.

The seasonal inlet serves as a quaint summer home to 34 property owners but in recent years has instead become a floating controversy due to the persistent urging of property owner Ray Tartaglione. The remote island has no electricity or running water and is only accessible by boat; inhabitants typically don’t take to the island until May.

Violations identified by the city were improper storage of propane tanks, excessive debris, lack of shed maintenance, installation of un-inspected solar panels and a windmill, woodpiles in violation of the city’s wetlands code and structurally unsound cottages.

Yet, prior that to inspection the council had been relying solely on information provided by suspended City Manager Paul Shew. Indications were that inspections had taken place and no violations were reported. However, Frank Culross, the city’s interim manager, said they were geared more toward permitting and compliance, case specific things. “The scope of information was narrower than what you were asking for and what we as a council thought occurred,” Mayor Steve Otis said.

Tartaglione, of Mr. Floatie fame and the public advocate pushing for possible environmental violations to be righted, has lived on the island since 1997. He’s continued to press the issue to the Rye City Council for months, prodding them to re-examine the case and charging the city with covering up violations.

Tartaglione says the cover up initiated out of the office of Kevin Plunkett, a city attorney, in directing the city manger to provide false information. The resident claims that separate litigation, in Dobbs Ferry, involving the two parties has led Plunkett to try to discredit him. “I don’t think Paul Shew was the scapegoat,” Tartaglione told the council. “I think he was the sacrificial lamb.” Nonetheless, inhabitants of Hen Island are protesting Tartaglione’s latest attacks. Ira Goldenberg, a Kudor Island attorney, characterized it as a case of sour grapes after Tartaglione had been ousted as one-time president of the island’s board of directors and later removed from that board altogether. “This is not a one-time incident but rather a larger attempt to seek a forum where he can,” the attorney claims. “Whenever he has been swatted down he goes somewhere else.”

Goldenberg says the property owner has initiated frivolous lawsuits against board members on repeated occasions and the most recent suit against the island’s shareholders, which Tartaglione is currently appealing, alleges mosquito infestation, improper sewage treatment seeping into the sound, potable water use and unsanitary living conditions. The court upheld the findings of the county which didn’t identify any violations during their previously referenced inspection.

In further defense, shareholder Helen Cunningham said what was seen upon inspection is generally not how the island looks, explaining that most residents currently do not inhabit the island. She said her fellow islanders are respectful of the area. “The land would be much dirtier if without us on it,” Cunningham added.

The mayor said the dialogue will continue and the city will wait for a reply from the county.


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