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Southampton Town: Hundreds Of Storm-Damaged Vehicles Are Being Illegally Stored In Speonk

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Carol Moran   Dec 5, 2012 1:10 PM
Dec 7, 2012 11:19 AM
Editor's Note: The article has been updated to reflect the correct name of the property owner, Frank Grausso Jr.

Southampton Town fire marshals have issued multiple violations to the owner of a property off Speonk-Riverhead Road in Speonk and the manager of a national car auction company for storing thousands of vehicles damaged in Superstorm Sandy at the site, one not zoned for such a use, town attorneys confirmed Wednesday.

Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato, who said she was made aware of the issue over the weekend, said that “well over 2,000 vehicles” have arrived at the site, which is zoned solely for mining and quarrying.

Ms. Scarlato said the Southampton Town Board will discuss the issue at a special board meeting scheduled for Thursday, December 6, at 1 p.m., during which members could decide to issue a temporary restraining order against both parties and seek injunctive relief in Suffolk County Supreme Court.

Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski said both the owners of the land—Frank Grausso Jr., according to town officials—and the manager of Copart, whom Mr. Sendlenski said he could not identify, could face up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000 for each charge. He said new charges could be racked up for each day or week that the violations continue.

Both the property owner and business manager were issued appearance tickets and are due to appear in Southampton Town Justice Court on Friday, December 28, he said.

Calls placed to Copart were not immediately returned.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico said a similar situation had occurred at the Ringhoff Farm off County Route 51 in Eastport, located on the Brookhaven side of the hamlet, late last week. He said it came to his attention that Copart was storing vehicles on the farm, which is not zoned for that use. Mr. Panico said Brookhaven Town issued a stop work order, and he met with the managers of the company, who were responsive to the town’s concerns and removed the 53 vehicles a short time later.

Copart was recently ordered to remove storm-damaged vehicles from a privately owned section of Enterprise Park in Calverton after the State Department of Environmental Conservation issued a cease and desist letter. Riverhead Town, which owns part of EPCAL, is allowing the company to store vehicles on the old runways at the site.

Dick Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said he was concerned about the negative impacts of storing damaged vehicles in environmentally sensitive areas and over the water tables. “The principal issue here is that zoning outside industrial doesn’t permit this use, and that’s for good reason—so at least Brookhaven appears to be understanding the problem of allowing industrial use in non-industrial zones,” he said.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said town code enforcement officers and fire marshals were sent to investigate the Speonk site, which is broken down into multiple parcels, on Monday, immediately after the town learned from community members that the cars were arriving there by the hundreds.

Ms. Scarlato added that two car fires occurring on Sunday night, one off the eastbound service road of Sunrise Highway on the County Route 51 overpass and the other west of the intersection of Old Country Road and Tuttle Avenue, also alerted the town to the issue. The cars that caught fire were in tow to be stored at the Speonk site, Mr. Sendlenski said.

Bud Mazura, a spokesman for the Eastport Fire Department, said the Sunrise Highway fire involved a car that was being towed behind a flatbed. He said the car being towed behind the truck ignited a second car that was atop the flatbed. Firefighters were able to extinguish both blazes quickly, according to Mr. Mazura.

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Funny thing, I believe it was Friday night, perhaps Saturday night, but I was coming home from Riverhead on Speonk-Riverhead rd and i must have been passed by at least 10 tow trucks some with vehicles on them and some without vehicles on them on that same road. They must have been trying to move the cars then before the town caught them.
By sayitaintsojoe (100), Westhampton on Dec 5, 12 4:33 PM
Remind me not to buy a used car in Suffolk over the next few years
By Hambone (378), New York on Dec 5, 12 5:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
maybe don't buy a used car from NYS for a few years!!!!!
By xtiego (303), bridgehampton on Dec 5, 12 5:28 PM
Or New Jersey:)
By sandydog21 (98), Southampton on Dec 5, 12 9:14 PM
Overflow from Outpost auto salvage.

Sometimes extreme circumstances, require extreme measures.

Where's the SBO crowd? I'm here to defend him, and I won't hesitate to. I say allow for a temporary measure to get the job done.
By Mr. Z (6224), North Sea on Dec 5, 12 6:20 PM
2 members liked this comment
Z: What's temporary?
- What happens if one of the cars catches on fire (or is vandalized resulting in fire)
- What happens when vehicles leak unknown chemicals/toxins/oils/gas into sand (aka groundwater)
- Why should these people make ridiculous amounts of $ (roughly - $3,200/acre/month) while getting ZERO approvals from the Town and creating a hazardous situation for all?

These are just a few questions
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 5, 12 8:58 PM
You should spend a little more time around scrapyards, and recycling centers on the island.

Anything this situation may contribute via toxins, or a potential fire (thanks for giving people ideas) would be negligible compared to places that have been operating for 20+ years.

This isn't nominal business in it's conduct. It's related to a "superstorm". Warranted, it violates normal practice, but the situation which created it was hardly normal. In fact, we haven't seen a storm ...more
By Mr. Z (6224), North Sea on Dec 5, 12 9:09 PM
Z - the difference is those junkyards/scrapyards are subject to periodic checkups by the respective local governments and have protocols they have to meet. Most are pre-existing non-conforming. Just becuase they exist doesn't mean that we should allow for MORE because of a "superstorm". These property owners are making enough money in pure profit (ZERO overhead costs) to cough up money for site plans, SWPPP, SEQRA and proper mitigation to prevent further environmental degredation
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 6, 12 10:13 AM
Zero overhead costs... They don't pay taxes on that land..? Furthermore, since when is $3,200/acre/month a ridiculous amount of money?!
By The Royal 'We' (142), Southampton on Dec 6, 12 1:37 PM
Royal - they pay taxes but they didn't buy this land for this specific use. They already have a use which they are making money from... this is all bonus.

And If you have 10 acres, yea $3,200/acre/month is a lot for literally doing nothing but possibly harming the environment
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 6, 12 2:18 PM
Next time you're up way of Medford, take some time and walk around the lot of the local transfer station. Just don't slip on the pavement. It's a bit greasy...
By Mr. Z (6224), North Sea on Dec 6, 12 7:18 PM
Z: from another article on the subject:

"The land in Speonk is in the town's aquifer protection overlay district, and within an area of the pine barrens set aside for compatible growth use.

The sand mine parcel is a pre-existing, nonconforming use. The other three parcels are zoned CR-200, a residential use requiring minimum 5-acre lots. None of them can be legally used for auto storage, Scarlato said."This is not an issue for the town of Southampton to deal with," she added. "We're ...more
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 7, 12 10:02 AM
In terms of the aquifer protection overlay district, that certainly changes lots. As for the money - even still, they're paying taxes per acre.. I checked out google maps, and I would imagine the spot is the sand pit right next to an already existing junkyard with about 200-400 cars... Could a quarter mile really make that much of a difference, see for yourself, just south of the sunrise, the sand pit, with the junkyard next to it...
By The Royal 'We' (142), Southampton on Dec 7, 12 10:27 AM
It makes a difference when there is no approvals and the Town does not have the ability to check up on things. Additionally, almost every junk yard on the island is "pre-existing, non-conforming" meaning that if the use were discontinued, it would not be allowed to occur again (under most circumstances).

Additionally, yes they are paying taxes but they had a pre-existing/non-conforming sand mine which they surely made a bundle from, and the other lots which are zoned CR-200 have taxes ...more
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 7, 12 10:51 AM
And now there is this from Brookhaven and Southampton jointly: “As we work to expeditiously address the immediate and pressing needs caused by Hurricane Sandy, we must remain mindful of the potential for long term and costly consequences if proper and thorough environmental and safety precautions are not taken. The storage of vehicles damaged by the storm must be approached with caution due to the high risk of contamination, health and safety issues they present. Property owners or representatives ...more
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 7, 12 2:15 PM
what is the ultimate disposition of all of these vehicles? Are they to be junked or sold? If they are not junked they should be auctioned before they deteriorate to the point where they become junk. I know many people who would be interested in acquiring a repairable damaged vehicle for the right price.
By CaptainSig (428), Dutch Harbor on Dec 6, 12 6:13 AM
The majority don't have a scratch on them. They're flood damage, and good for body parts, unibody subframes, or suspension parts.

Engines, and trannys are most likely scrap and waterlogged.
By Mr. Z (6224), North Sea on Dec 6, 12 7:16 PM
Damn town ego's again, wave the fines and the rest of the town ordinances we had a major hurricane!
By rrc1049 (61), Bridgehampton on Dec 6, 12 11:54 AM
1 member liked this comment
Some enterprising individual should sneak into these lots around the tri state region, record VIN numbers, and post a fee-for-use data base. It would be available world-wide in case the vehicles leave the area, like they did after Katrina.
Would you invest $20 to search such a database before investing in a used car?
I would...
By aging hipster (72), Southampton on Dec 7, 12 7:18 AM
Aging - No need, they are all already earmarked.. In order to come to these yards they have to be labeled as either parts only, or rebuildable salvage.. Automatically (at least in Jersey), if a car is hit with saltwater, it is gone for parts only.
I just went to sell my truck, that was parked in my warehouse during the storm, and FEMA has this for me in a carfax report:
TITLE Reported registered/titled prior to storm event in FEMA designated storm area. We recommend a professional vehicle ...more
By The Royal 'We' (142), Southampton on Dec 7, 12 10:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
don't forget there's also a plume running under the ground there we don't need any more pollutants leaching into the soil just because we;re not amagansett or east hampton doesn't mean the law shouldn't be obeyed. If someone puts up a srub that's not approved on the east end there's always some problem so lets address a real problem like this when it arises.
By maxwell (165), speonk on Dec 7, 12 3:06 PM
So what is your solution Maxwell. So many problem exploiters on this board. Not many solvers.
Using the present site should be acceptable providing it is temporary.
By double-D (96), southampton on Dec 9, 12 12:03 PM
what does double d stand for double dumb? If it's not zoned for this closed itdown or fine it to the full extend of the law.This is a township where you can't park your car in the street least you get a ticket but hundreds of cars are allowed? And what is temporary 30 days 60 two years?
By maxwell (165), speonk on Dec 9, 12 9:02 PM
I think the state should make a quick law that says these vehicles were saltwater flood totals not the regular accident total losses. Salt water on acar is a slow death. These cars might operate fine for a couple monthe but the corrosion will destroy the wiring then it will destroy the sheet metal and mechanical components. As far as the town goes they are all talk they will do nothing. Some big politician will walk in town hall and make it all better.
By chief1 (1319), southampton on Dec 9, 12 9:13 PM
Chief,

I don't get what your point is RE: a state law. Are you saying the cars should be allowed to be sold/driven again? You're not clear.

And no, it's not all talk. All talk would be issuing a press release saying that it's not legal. They instead have issued tickets, and gotten a restraining order which will require the vehicles be moved from the site as per a judge.
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 10, 12 10:05 AM
I highly doubt you can stop the cars from being sold, but they should have a disclaimer that says they were under water. There should also be an explanation of how much danger a buyer will be in by purchasing one of these cars. As far as going to court all they are going to get is a temporary restraining order. How can a court throw these operators off the property without the town going to trial and proving their case? In light of this disaster I find it hard to believe a judge will stop them from ...more
By chief1 (1319), southampton on Dec 10, 12 10:16 AM
Chief - these cars have all been totalled and for good reason. No way of knowing how much water they were exposed to, for how long etc. They will be auctioned by Adesa or CoPart and used for parts or scrap. Their VIN #'s have all been flagged... CoPart is a multi-billion dollar company - they are quite efficient at doing this type of thing (perhaps a little "too efficient" as evidenced by their complete lack of respect for local laws).

A judge issuing a restraining order CAN get the ...more
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 10, 12 11:15 AM
There are cars all over NY with salvage titles that are on the road. Who told you these cars will be scrapped if that was the case they would of went straight to the scrap yard. A temporary restraining order is just that only temporary. If they shut down this car storage area and the town loses a trial they will be liable for monetary damages to the sand mine. It's funny how the town wants to dredge the ocean floor in the fish spawning period, but they think its a problem to store cars for a couple ...more
By chief1 (1319), southampton on Dec 10, 12 11:36 AM
From an article on NPR re: storm damaged vehicles:

"Brian Sullivan, editor of the trade newsletter Auto Insurance Report, believes most wrecked cars will ultimately be sold for parts or shredded and melted down. Salvage cars are kind of like when someone butchers a pig and they talk about using everything but the squeak," Sullivan says. "These cars get broken down and everything gets reused that can be reused." Headlights, fenders, hoods and even the lens over your backup light — ...more
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 10, 12 12:13 PM
Btw - you can't send 250,000 cars "straight to the scrap yard". They have to be put somewhere until they can get processed. Hence the storage of vehicles on sites across the island.
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 11, 12 12:51 PM
Your wrong they are waiting to auction them off not crush them. You should stop by Gershow someday and see how it takes minutes for them to chew up a car into shredded steel. Believe me they aren't moving cars twice because there is no where to dump them. A shredded car is worth around 500 dollars and a parted out car or salvage car is worth between 2,000 and 10,000. Where do you get your information? Because it is wrong.
By chief1 (1319), southampton on Dec 11, 12 1:57 PM
I guess Brian Sullivan, editor of the trade newsletter Auto Insurance Report has no idea what he is talking about then (see above).

I never said all of them are being scrapped - many of them are being auctioned through Adesa and Copart, but just because they are auctioned doesn't mean they will end up on the road.
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Dec 11, 12 2:12 PM
Oh I didn't realize it was the mouth peace for a newsletter of the auto insurance industry. LOL What do you think the industry is going to tell you? You can live in your little naive world but I will stick to reality.
By chief1 (1319), southampton on Dec 12, 12 12:09 AM
One last time before we send you to the Principal's office, Chief1:
They're (;P) is a difference between "your" and "you're" Just like there is a difference in there, their and ( you guessed it "they're") It really takes away your credibility when you can't write at 6th grade levels. Have pleasant day. At this rate you are 54 comments away from being the first poster to hit 500 postings and every single one of them being a complaint.
By But I'm a blank! (810), Hampton Bays on Dec 12, 12 11:27 AM
1 member liked this comment
It's ironic you are correcting my grammar when you have a couple mistakes on your post, but who's counting. As far as posts go there are people here with over 4,000 not that I care what you think..Yes, I complain about the same thing just about everytime. It is the irresponsible spending of my tax dollars by local goverment who are destroying our childrens futures by wasting money. Just ignore me, and ignore what I am preaching, and you will see this country turn into a third world country.
By chief1 (1319), southampton on Dec 13, 12 12:23 AM
Please don't confuse Cheif1 with verifiable facts.
By But I'm a blank! (810), Hampton Bays on Dec 11, 12 3:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
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