A Northwest Woods man, Sydney S. Griffin, 75, was arraigned Monday in East Hampton Justice Court on 29 zoning-related misdemeanor charges. The town claims he has illegally reconfigured his house to create multiple interior units.
Mr. Griffin adamantly denied the charges on Tuesday, saying they were the result of a misunderstanding with a tenant in 2011.
The charges, 18 of which allege violations of state housing regulations and 11 citing town code violations, include summonses for illegal wiring, open electrical junction boxes and splices, illegal locks on doors, creating four separate interior living spaces, unheated living spaces, extension cords used as primary wiring, and an illegal second kitchen added to the second floor.
The town calls one of Mr. Griffin’s units at 82 Northwest Landing Road “unfit for human occupancy” because of “filth and contamination.”
Diego Borrero, an ordinance inspector, went through the premises on Jan. 24 at the direction of Tom Preiato, the town’s chief building inspector, after the Ordinance Enforcement Department received a complaint. Mr. Borrero’s report also cited “mold on the ceiling in the laundry area” and “a piece of wall missing by the electric stove,” as well as no smoke detectors in the house.
Mr. Griffin had been charged in March 2011 with 28 similar violations, among them lacking certificates of occupancy for multiple living spaces. Most of the charges were dropped after he pleaded guilty to three violations. In November of that year he was given a conditional discharge on the remaining counts, with the understanding that he would bring the house into conformity with the code.
Three years ago, “I had a tenant with a dog,” Mr. Griffin said in a phone conversation Tuesday. The dog bit him, he said, and he asked the tenant to get rid of it. Instead, he said, the tenant moved out, and filed the complaint that led to the 2011 charges.
Mr. Griffin said the tenant has since moved back in, without the dog.
He said he had not known that interior locks were illegal. “I don’t understand what’s going on in this town,” he said. “I built this house in 1977. These charges make me look like a slumlord.” He said that in the past few weeks he had removed the interior locks.
Mr. Griffin added that he is retired and on a fixed income, and said he recently decided to take in two tenants to make ends meet. He lives on the second floor, which has a hot plate, he said, but no kitchen.
In a statement issued on Monday, East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that “the coordinated response by code enforcement and the building department, with an assist from the town police, is exactly what we expect from our public safety agencies.” Police at the scene took possession of “unsecured firearms,” the supervisor said.
No charges have been filed relating to guns.