The operator of an Aquebogue vacation rental on Overlook Drive known as “Victorville by the Sea” has signed a stipulation preventing him from advertising, booking and renting out any part of the property through Airbnb or otherwise pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the city.
The lawsuit, filed by the city attorney’s office in October 2020, accuses the operator of constructing and occupying improvements on the property without a building permit or certificate of occupancy and of violating the rental code of the city since at least May 2018.
The property at 128 Overlook Drive is owned by Canal House, a Manhattan-based company whose managing member is Victor Ozeri, according to court documents.
According to the complaint, the owner added without a permit at least two bedrooms, at least two bedrooms, added a chalet with several bedrooms and at least one bathroom, added a pool house, a fixed trailer and a shed to fixed boat, and converted a detached garage into living space. The owner had no permit or certificate of occupancy or compliance for any of these structures, according to the complaint.
The city in its complaint said the defendants – the company and Ozeri – market the premises on social media platforms such as instagram and on the vacation rental website Airbnb such as “Victorville by the Sea” which “sleeps 42-46 people” and “consists of a main house with five themed bedrooms and four bathrooms, plus 7 separate, unique cottages” each sleeping 4-12 people “, as well as 7 separate and unique cottages.”
The complaint states that the defendants operate the premises “like a hotel and/or bed and breakfast business”, preparing and serving food and alcoholic beverages to guests.
The defendants used the premises to hold weddings and parties, including birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties and company retreats, the complaint states.
Carrier rates range from $289 per night to $1,068 per night, depending on the complaint.
Defendants are represented by Anthony Palumbo, who responded to the complaint with general and specific denials and raised a number of affirmative defenses, including the city’s alleged “culpable conduct, negligence, omissions” and more.
Palumbo is a state senator representing the Senate district that includes the town of Riverhead. When the lawsuit was filed, he was a state assemblyman representing the assembly district that includes the town of Riverhead.
Riverhead requested a temporary restraining order preventing the defendants from renting the property while the lawsuit was underway.
State Supreme Court Justice Paul Baisley Jr. denied the city’s request on August 6.
The city did not have a chance to appear in court on the TRO’s request, city attorney Erik Howard said. The city was not contacted by the court or given an opportunity to be heard, which Howard said was “unusual.”
Nonetheless, Howard said, the city was able to negotiate an informal agreement that “rentals through Airbnb would cease.”
“Then, earlier this month, we were finally able to get everyone together at a conference to discuss the case and how Mr. Ozeri might deal with the construction violations on the property,” said Howard said. “These discussions have been productive, and we have formalized the stipulation that AirBnb rentals will cease in the absence of proper city permits and/or occupancy certificates,” Howard said.
The city attorney said the Riverhead Police Department “helped assist code enforcement and the city attorney’s office in documenting and establishing Canal House’s practice of transient tenancies in violation of city code,” Howard said, “and we were able to get a good result and relief for area residents.
Palumbo said in a text message Wednesday that Ozeri is “working with the city to ensure her home is in full compliance with all local laws and occupancy certificates are obtained whenever necessary.
“We hope the case will soon be completely resolved,” Palumbo said.
Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar noted that the property had “numerous violations over an extended period of time,” and despite the city’s attempts to address the issues, “they remained non-compliant.”
Aguiar said she was happy with the deal, but “time will tell,” she said.
“We will stay informed until all violations are corrected and remain compliant with our code,” Aguiar said.
Riverhead Town in 2013 banned transient tenancies except legally operating commercial hotel/motel businesses or bed and breakfast establishments. Temporary rentals are defined by the code as rentals for a period of 29 days or less.
Despite the ban, dozens of private homes across the city are still offered for overnight rental on Airbnb and similar websites.
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