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20 Charges in ‘Boutique’ Springs Rental Case

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 14:20
The owner of a house at 145 Neck Path in Springs, which town officials claim was operated as a "boutique hotel," made his first court appearance on Monday.
Doug Kuntz

The owner of a high-end rental house in Springs that East Hampton Town officials are trying to shut down appeared before an East Hampton Town justice this week along with the alleged house manager.

Juan Figueroa and Cody Khamal Franklin have 20 open dockets between them on zoning code violations, mostly for rental registry violations, but also on charges of prohibited use, excessive turnover, and vehicle parking violations.

East Hampton Town officials obtained a temporary restraining order two weeks ago to put an end to parties, photo shoots, product launches, and other commercial activities that they said are taking place at the 10,000-square-foot house at 145 Neck Path.

The town alleged that promoters were advertising a “secret location” for parties at the house, a modern glass and steel structure on the market for $3.9 million, and an admission fee and additional fees of up to $5,000 were being charged for reserved spots poolside and bottle service.

A listing on Airbnb described the house as a “boutique hotel,” according to the town and a neighbor who spotted it on the rental website. The town said that individual rooms in the house had been offered for rent; or the entire house could be rented for $2,700 per night.

Mr. Figueroa, 45, a developer who transformed the restored former Williamsburgh Savings Bank building in Brooklyn into a high-end event space, and Ms. Franklin arrived together at court for the zoning calendar on Monday, without an attorney.

The house was not on the town’s rental registry, as required by a law adopted in late 2015 that regulates rental properties. A violation of the law is punishable by a fine not less than $3,000, no more than $15,000, or imprisonment of up to six months, or both, for a first-time offense conviction.

Mr. Figueroa was charged with eight rental registry violations and five excessive turnover violations, along with one charge related to vehicle parking. Ms. Franklin, 25, was charged with seven rental registration violations, five excessive turnover violations, and one parking violation.

Justice Lisa R. Rana called Ms. Franklin up first for arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf. Ms. Franklin said she lives at the Neck Path house but will be moving to Brooklyn in the fall. She claimed to be unemployed, but works in marketing and business and will be looking for a job upon her move back to the city, she told the court.

When Justice Rana asked her if she planned to hire an attorney, she said she was not sure and that she hoped her cases would be transferred out of her name and into Mr. Figueroa’s name. “It’s a wise idea for you to do so,” Justice Rana explained to her. “This is very serious,” she said as she counted the pending dockets.

John Jilnicki, the town attorney handling the case in court, told Justice Rana that the town is in negotiations with the property owner “on a global settlement” in justice court, as well as the Supreme Court action.

On July 31, Supreme Court Justice Vincent Martorana granted an order restraining Mr. Figueroa, the Neck Path house manager, and “other individuals with an interest in a commercial use of the property” from using the house as a share house or motel, renting it without registration on the town’s rental registry, or using it for any other nonresidential activity.”

Justice Rana still suggested Ms. Franklin get an attorney. She said settlement talks do not necessarily protect Ms. Franklin’s rights. “It may or may not be in your best interest,” she said.

Mr. Figueroa went up before the judge next. Justice Rana also entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. He said he also lives at the Neck Path house and that he will be hiring an attorney.

Both of their cases were adjourned until Aug. 26.

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