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Town Considers Legal Options on Condo Air Quality

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 16:22

In the continuing saga of the “manor house” condominium development on Accabonac Road in East Hampton, which remains vacant because of lingering elevated levels of volatile organic compounds in the units’ basements, the East Hampton Town Board voted last Thursday to retain a law firm that focuses on environmental matters.

Seven months after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the 12-unit development, the first offering of its kind in the town’s affordable housing program, town officials still point to off-gassing of the insulation foam and-or fireproof paint in the basements as behind the delay in selling the units to residents who were randomly selected in a 2017 lottery.

An environmental services firm has conducted three rounds of tests of the basements’ air quality on the town’s behalf; all revealed elevated levels of multiple volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Two rounds of tests conducted by the contractor’s environmental services company came to a different conclusion, but those were conducted “according to an entirely different set of standards than the tests we did,” Tom Ruhle, the director of the town’s Office of Housing and Community Development, said last month.

Nick Zoumas, a principal of the contractor, JNS Development of Wading River, told The Star last month that its tests determined that the basements’ air quality was “within acceptable standards,” that there was “no issue with the air quality which is preventing sales.”

Asked last month if the town would take legal action against the contractor, Mr. Ruhle said that he hoped the issue could be resolved without resorting to litigation.

The board voted unanimously last Thursday to retain Rigano L.L.C. of Melville. “The town is committed to resolving the issue and providing safe and livable units for the purchasers of these units,” according to the resolution. James Rigano and his firm have “extensive experience in addressing this type of issue,” and have “agreed to assist the town in pursuing an appropriate resolution.”

Rigano L.L.C. will “provide legal and consulting services to the Town of East Hampton; and . . . said counsel is authorized to take all necessary and appropriate action on behalf of the town in coordination with the town attorney to develop a solution to the air quality issues at the town's project.”

The firm is to be paid up to $15,000, and it is authorized to hire subcontractors to assist with the case. If a recommendation to resolve the issue results from its initial evaluation, the resolution authorizes a further expenditure of $25,000 to implement it.

A subcontractor, according to Mr. Ruhle and the board, is the FPM Group, a Bohemia engineering and environmental sciences firm. “James Rigano and the FPM Group have been hired by the town to do testing and an analysis of the HVAC system and other components with an eye toward finding a solution to the air quality problems at the manor house,” Mr. Ruhle said in an email on Tuesday. “At this point they are investigating the situation and we have no results to report.”

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Editor’s note: Christopher Walsh is one of the prospective buyers for a unit at the condominium complex.


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