A court battle between neighbors on Casler Place in Throggs Neck opened in December, as Bronx Supreme Court Judge Edward Walker commented on the fence and seawall dispute.
Casler Place and Pennyfield Avenue residents sued Dare Place neighbors Susan and Thomas Acquafredda in October. In the course of construction between Dare and Casler, the Acquafreddas sealed public access to Long Island Sound at the end of Casler Place, the plaintiffs contend. Neighbors had used the waterfront to swim and boat for decades.
But the end of Casler Place belongs to the Acquafreddas, who were granted permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to build the seawall, the defendants maintain.
At a December hearing, transcripts show, Walker conceded that although the city never dedicated the end of Casler Place as a public road, Casler Place does extend to the water; the Acquafreddas cannot claim the waterfront based purely on its non-dedication, Walker supposed. The judge cited an easement from 1928.
It seems that the plaintiffs have a right to use the waterfront, Walker said. He commented, transcripts show, that the Acquafreddas, who have leased the land under the seawall from the city in order to perform repairs, appear to have had no right to build a fence at the end of Casler Place; the lease was only meant for the seawall.
Walker was surprised to note that the defendants’ deed to the end of Casler Place shows that the land was transferred from the Acquafreddas to the Acquafreddas.
“I really can’t consider that as proof of ownership,” he said.
Walker explained, transcripts show, that he would not order the Acquafreddas to remove the fence so early in the case but commented that it would be “equitable” to require access to the waterfront via the Acquafreddas’ property for the plaintiffs while the dispute remains in court. Walker asked the neighbors and attorneys to sort out how and where.
The judge granted the Acquafreddas permission to add to the fence in the interest of safety. Walker scheduled another hearing for January; the battle has barely begun.
“From our standpoint, [the December hearing] was a huge victory,” the plaintiffs’ attorney, Eric Baum of the firm Simon, Eisenberg & Baum, said.
Casler Place resident Kevin Gilliland described the dispute as seen by the plaintiffs.
“Life on the block has been immeasurably altered for the worse,” he said. “A sea wall with a precipitous drop now stands where kids once played. Our guaranteed rights of egress and access to the water have been stolen.”
Gilliland thinks Walker understands. The plaintiffs feel confident, he said.
The Aquafreddas, who run a well-known business on E. Tremont Avenue, declined comment. The December hearing was only a skirmish. No final decisions have been made and the trial has yet to begin, Susan Acquafredda said.
Phone calls to her attorney, Simon Rothkrug of the firm Rothkrug, Rothkrug & Spector, weren’t returned.
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@c
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