Despite judge’s ruling, permit calls Dejana structures ‘trailers’

Stephen Romano

Are they trailers or buildings?

It depends on whether you look at a judge’s ruling or a Village of Manorhaven building permit.

In 2014, a Manorhaven judge fined businessman Peter Dejana $69,000 for illegal trailers on two of his properties.

The Board of Trustees approved a settlement in 2016 that called for Dejana to either provide a legal argument for why the trailers are permitted under village code or remove them. The settlement also called for Dejana to plead guilty to two counts of maintaining trailers under Section 148-3 of the village code.

After a Blank Slate Media investigation found that the trailers had not been removed nor had Dejana been fined, the village issued two tickets.

Peter Gallanter, the judge who fined Dejana in 2014, ruled in May that the structures are not trailers, but are actually buildings because the village code does not provide a definition for trailers but has one for buildings — and dismissed the tickets.

However, the original building permit from 2008, for 30 Sagamore Hill Drive, permitted the construction of “2 temp. office trailers.” The permit was obtained through a request under the Freedom of Information Law.

“The judge made an independent review of it,” Mayor Jim Avena said. “We will continue to look into it.”

Avena, who is engaged to Dejana’s sister and is the grant administrator for Dejana’s foundation, the Peter and Jeri Dejana Family Foundation, has said if the matter came before the Board of Trustees he would recuse himself.

Although the building permit referred to the trailers as temporary, they remain nine years later.

When asked by email if he would look into the matter again after the discovery of the building permit, the village’s superintendent of buildings, Bill Rogel, did not answer the question.

Gallanter did not respond to a request for comment.

In the village code, a building is defined as “a combination of any materials, whether portable or fixed, having a roof, to form a structure affording shelter for persons, animals or property.”

The settlement passed on Feb. 25, 2016, gave Dejana, the owner of Dejana Industries, which encompasses several other snow removal and street sweeping companies, 60 days to provide a legal argument about how the trailer at 134 Shore Road was exempt under village code or fines would be imposed. At 30 Sagamore Hill Drive, he had six months to apply for a building permit or remove the trailers.

In addition, he agreed to pay $75,000 to the village as part of the settlement.

Dejana did not respond to a request to comment.

Before dismissing the tickets written to Dejana, Gallanter said plumbing and cable TV are hooked up to the structures, which further proves they are buildings.

The trailers are produced by ModSpace, which sells trailers designed to be mobile offices with electrical hookups.

The village began issuing violations to Dejana daily under the previous administration, but only issued one set of tickets in April because the village is following the procedure that has been historically followed, Avena said last month.

He voted in favor of the Feb. 25, 2016, settlement, which was passed as a resolution when he was a village trustee and refers to the structures as trailers.

The village began fining Dejana for the trailers at the two sites on Nov. 6, 2013, and subsequently fined him 120 times, Patrick Abramski, the former superintendent of buildings and chief code enforcer, said in Village Court transcripts on Oct. 21, 2014.

Because 350 days passed between the first fine and the Oct. 21, 2014, court date,  Gallanter deemed each day the trailers had been on the properties a violation — a total of 700 days, 350 for each property.

Dejana’s attorney for the original case was Gerard Terry, the former North Hempstead Democratic Committee chairman, who pleaded not guilty on Jan. 31 to federal charges of tax evasion and obstruction of the IRS.

Efforts to reach Terry were unavailing.

It is not known whether Dejana is running his company out of the trailers or if he is paying taxes on them.

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