By PHIL NOBILE
Although quiet has fallen upon a controversial quarry in West Harrison thanks to numerous stop work orders and violations, Harrison Town Court was anything but as a judge told the quarry’s president the matter must face trial come September.
Aggravated by a series of delays and absences, presiding Judge Marc Lust reprimanded Lake Street Quarry president Lawrence Barrego and his attorney Michael Sirignano for delaying issues revolving around the granite quarry. Barrego’s business, which was recently issued additional violations, which now total 37 code violation charges against the quarry, received a rebuke from Lust, who said the matter must head to trial in Harrison Town Court on Sept. 4.
“[Barrego and Sirignano] have had probably more than a year, if not more, to get this whole thing resolved,” Lust said in court on June 12. “We’re putting this to trial and resolving it.”
Sirignano, who failed to appear in town court alongside his client Barrego for the past two court dates, declined to comment about Lust’s decision to bring the matter to trial, only saying that his client was not guilty of the violations against him.
The 37 charges range from a lack of explicit permits or approval for the delivery of fill to the quarry to excess waste, illegal fencing and having offices on the premises.
The quarry president has long maintained his business was grandfathered in, pre-dating town code, which was adopted in 1923, therefore making it exempt from code violations.
Consistently, courts at the town and state levels have disagreed.
In 2009, the Town of Harrison issued a stop work order against the quarry after complaints from neighbors about late-night equipment usage, stopping all excavation and operation of heavy machinery on the property. Barrego appealed the stop work order to the Town Council, which ultimately found the decision to stop the heavy machinery was sound. In the meantime, work on the property continued in a different capacity, such as landfill being transported to and from the site.
The Town Council’s decision was then appealed by Barrego to the Westchester County Supreme Court by filing an Article 78 in 2011, which, under New York State law, allows anyone to appeal a local or state court decision.
County Supreme Court Judge Albert Lorenzo upheld the decision by the Harrison Town Council.
Appealing again, Barrego turned to the appellate division, which made a decision in June 2013, saying Judge Lorenzo used the wrong mechanism and process to render his decision, and that it should have been dismissed and given declaratory judgment. Essentially, the appellate court said that instead of Lorenzo dismissing the lawsuit, he should have made a declaratory judgment on the issue to either Barrego or the Town of Harrison.
The matter never reappeared on Lorenzo’s calendar again—an action that, according to Harrison Town Attorney Frank Allegretti, was up to Sirignano.
“He is the plaintiff and it’s up to him to push a case and put it back on a calendar,” Allegretti said. “He has not, for obvious reasons in my opinion, because Lorenzo’s decision was pretty solid. He’s got a tough uphill battle in the courts.”
In the meantime, the quarry’s neighbors have come to Town Council meetings since March, expressing their quality-of-life concerns at each. It wasn’t until May 14 that a full and final stop work order and a slew of new charges were issued against Barrego by Building Inspector Robert FitzSimmons, after which the quarry completely shut down.
Judge Lust called Barrego’s attempt to adjourn the matter further “outrageous.” He said the matter would be decided in Harrison Town Court, not in county Supreme Court.
“There’s no stay, there’s nothing at this point that technically, procedurally or legally has any bearing on this matter,” Lust said. “If he feels that this court somehow doesn’t have jurisdiction over this matter, he can pursue whatever legal remedies he feels are appropriate.”
Along with its Sept. 4 trial date, the quarry owner is due back in court on July 10 to discuss the most recent charges issued in May with the new stop work order.