COMMACK, New York, Mar. 26
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
A new development has emerged in the three-year long legal battle between the Commack School District and the heirs of Marion Carll. The heirs are now seeking damages.
Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge Daniel Martin last month granted the heirs’ motion to amend their complaint to plead a cause of action for money damages to the historic property.
Martin also did not allow the district to make changes to its request for immediate judgment and denied Commack’s intent to assert a statute of limitations defense.
“The board is considering other legal actions,” including appealing the decision, Eugene Barnosky, attorney for the Commack School District, said during a March 12 board meeting.
The Marion Carll Farm property was donated to the Commack School District in 1968. Originally settling in 1701, the Carll family built its farmhouse there. Marion Carll was born in 1885. Upon her death in 1968, Carll – a former teacher in the Commack School District – left the property in the hands of the district under the notion that the estate be converted into a museum and/or used for educational purposes.
From 1990-2000 the property was used by Western Suffolk BOCES for educational and faming classes, but, since then, it has not been used.
After much debate as to what the district should do with the property, Commack officials opted in 2010 to try and sell Marion Carll Farm – which can be found on the National Register of Historic Places – to Holiday Corp/Hamlet, but the proposal was shot down by residents in a vote.
On March 16, 2012, a lawsuit was filed by the 11 heirs of the property to have the district return the 9-acre property since Commack had not maintained the property in the way detailed by Carll’s will.
A statement issued by the Commack Board of Education says the district must file an answer to the heirs’ amended complaint.
“The district continues to seek a solution to its ownership of the Marion Carll property and the restrictions contained in the deed conveying the property to the district,” the statement reads.
Huntington-based attorney S. Russ DiFazio, who is representing the Carll-family heirs in the lawsuit, did not respond to a request for comment before press time on Tuesday.
During the March 12 board meeting, one Commack resident asked: “So we lost?”
“No, this is an intermediate step, this is not a final determination,” Barnosky explained. “What it means if nothing else happens, and the board is considering other legal actions, is that the portion of a lawsuit known as disclosure will now proceed.”
The disclosure portion of a lawsuit means that there may be document production and depositions – a phase of the litigation that will take at least several months.
“The ball game is in the second inning,” Barnosky said, “not the ninth.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Record
(Thursday, Mar. 26, 2015; A5)