NORTH HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — A Westbury, N.Y., coin laundry owner prevented by the town of North Hempstead from reopening his business for more than a year after a fire destroyed the store, has won a state Supreme Court case against the town.
According to court documents, a fire destroyed Fermin Nunez’s Westbury Laundromat Inc. in 2005. After rebuilding the store in January 2007, North Hempstead’s building inspector, Daniel LoMonte, issued him a permit authorizing the facility to again be used as a coin laundry.
But days earlier, the town board had changed the zoning code to prohibit coin laundries from operating in that location. Nunez wasn’t informed of the change and spent approximately $350,000 on equipment for the rebuilt store, which was to open in April 2007, according to Nunez’ lawyer, Lawrence J. Goldstein.
After repeated requests to the building department for a final inspection, Goldstein says he e-mailed James O’Connor, who was building commissioner at the time. O’Connor’s reply, Goldstein says, was the first he heard of the zoning change.
The town sent Nunez a notice of disapproval, and Goldstein took the case to the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals, which denied the request to reopen the store. Goldstein then filed papers with the state Supreme Court in Nassau.
The decision by Justice R. Bruce Cozzens Jr. called the permit revocation “an unconstitutional deprivation of the petitioner’s property rights.”
“It’s not easy for me when I don’t make any money,” Nunez told Newsday. “The town made the mistake.”
Goldstein says he believes the mix-up was the result of a scandal in the town building department that culminated last year with the arrests of five employees on charges including bribery and falsifying business records. LoMonte and O’Connor were not arrested.
“They were in total disarray,” Goldstein told Newsday. “You’d think if they amended the ordinance, they would have told the inspectors.”
Town spokesman Collin Nash told Newsday that the coin laundry permit was “erroneously issued,” and he declined to comment on how the scandal might have affected the situation.
The coin laundry still needs a final inspection by the town before it can open, Goldstein says. It’s unclear whether the town will appeal.