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Gun Club Alleges Third-Party Influence in Effort to Shut Its Range

Thu, 03/30/2023 - 12:55

Gun club alleges someone is bankrolling opposition

With more than 1,000 members unable to use the shuttered shooting range, the Maidstone Gun Club responded Friday to a lawsuit seeking its permanent closure with claims of its own.
Christine Sampson

The Maidstone Gun Club, which has been closed since early December by a New York State Supreme Court order as an investigation takes place into errant bullets allegedly reaching nearby houses, has countered a lawsuit seeking its permanent closure with several claims of its own.

According to court filings dated Friday, the gun club is alleging that the plaintiffs in the suit “are acting as shills to a developer seeking to shut down the club and build homes near the club,” and that the plaintiffs “have a financial arrangement with a third party in an effort to shut down the entire club.”

The gun club alleges the plaintiffs — Roxana and Cristinel Pintilie, Ellen Corwin, Vincent Covello, Lori Weinstein as trustee of the Merchants Path Trust, Kevin B. Coyle as trustee of the Kevin B. Coyle Revocable Trust, and Tracy E. Carey as trustee of the Tracey E. Carey Revocable Trust — are attempting to “procure” and “cause” a breach of the club’s lease with East Hampton Town, based on “misleading information” and “without any legal justification.” The club is also seeking $1 million in damages, in addition to the total dismissal of the plaintiffs’ case.

In addition to safety concerns about bullets that have struck houses or landed on their properties, which was originally at the heart of New York State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Modelewski’s temporary restraining order closing the club in early December, the plaintiffs have taken up the matter of water quality. Justice Modelewski ordered the gun club to allow the plaintiffs’ engineer to inspect and collect soil samples from the property out of their concern over lead contamination.

That finally took place on Friday after multiple back-and-forth motions that included the possibility that Justice Modelewski would hold the gun club’s attorney, Joseph Maniscalco of LaMonica, Herbst & Maniscalco, L.L.P., in Nassau County, in contempt. The gun club has also enlisted the help of a Connecticut attorney, Martha Dean, a one-time Republican gubernatorial candidate, whose motion for a 30-day stay of the plaintiffs’ soil sampling at the gun club was dismissed.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, James Catterson, a partner in the New York City firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman L.L.P., said by phone Tuesday that “any claim that we only filed this case to interfere with their lease is ridiculous.” The issues of safety and environmental concern are straightforward, he said. The New York State Police investigation into a bullet that was caught on camera whizzing past workers at one of the Merchants Path houses was “thorough,” Mr. Catterson said, in its verification that “the bullet came from the Maidstone Gun Club.”

Mr. Maniscalco could not be reached for comment this week, and a representative of the gun club could not immediately comment on the proceedings.

The court calendar shows the parties’ next appearance is April 17. Filings show the club itself is planning a discovery effort of its own, the inspection of the five Merchants Path properties owned by the plaintiffs, on April 18. Among those, one of them, a five-bedroom house on 2.3 acres, has been listed by Sotheby’s Realty as available for rent this summer.

Public discourse surrounding the Maidstone Gun Club has been contentious since last spring, when the club filed notice with East Hampton Town seeking a lease renewal for the 97 acres of town-owned land on which it operates a membership-based sportsmen’s club. Local and regional law enforcement officers also use the facilities for training purposes. The club’s 30-year lease is to expire at the end of October this year. Shortly after the club began the renewal process, the matter came up at a meeting of the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee, where opposition to a renewed lease quickly galvanized.

On Dec. 21, the committee sent a letter to the East Hampton Town Board recommending the permanent closure of the club. The letter was based on a Dec. 10 vote by committee members, which was five in favor of closing the club and two against, with two abstentions.

“It should be noted that the members who voted no or abstained all stated that they are in favor of substantial changes at the Maidstone Gun Club to address safety and environmental concerns,” the Wainscott committee’s chairwoman, Carolyn Logan Gluck, wrote in its Dec. 21 letter.

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