Riverhead Town went to court against an Aquebogue landowner for alleged violations of the town’s tenancy code and for allegedly building without a permit.
The lawsuit, filed in October 2020, names as defendants Canal House LLC, doing business as “Victorville by the Sea,” and its owner, Victor Ozeri.
The “Victorville by the Sea” property is located at 228 Overlook Drive in Aquebogue, just west of Meetinghouse Creek.
Mr. Ozeri purchased the property in 2006 and expanded it to create a 6,000 square foot complex by 2011. He is the founder of a handbag design and manufacturing company called Interasian Resources.
The city argues that the property was expanded without a permit and is being rented out without a city rental permit.
“Victorville by the Sea” has advertised rooms on Airbnb and Instagram, where they say the property can be rented as both a hotel and/or a bed and breakfast, between May 15 and November 15.
“Victorville by the Sea. A unique and whimsical waterfront mansion on the North Fork. Accommodates 42-46 people,” the Instagram ad reads. “Victorville consists of a main house with five themed bedrooms and four bathrooms, as well as seven separate, unique cottages.”
Victorville’s attorney is State Senator Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), whose district represents the East End and parts of Brookhaven Town in the New York State Legislature.
“We actually sat down with the city and plan to have them walk through the building with us so that we can address any non-compliance issues, if there are any, as soon as possible,” Mr. Palumbo.
Mr. Ozeri is due to testify in the case no later than April 1, 2022, according to a recent court filing.
“It’s a big piece of property and there are all kinds of allegations,” Mr Palumbo said. “We are in litigation now, so I really can’t say more. But if there are violations, we certainly seek to address them immediately, with the help of the city.
The city, in its lawsuit, claims the premises are for rent on weeknights for $4,900 per night with no minimum number of nights to rent and $5,900 per night Friday through Sunday with a minimum two-night reservation.
Rented rooms go by names such as “The Love Shack”, “The Penthouse”, “The Church of Baseball”, “The ICU (Intensive Cuddling Unit)”, and “1969 Room”, among others.
The city, in legal documents filed by Assistant City Attorney Erik Howard, says the property is zoned for residential B-40, a use that only allows single-family dwellings.
Mr. Howard, in a May 19 letter to Mr. Palumbo, expressed concern that Mr. Ozeri had continued to ignore the city’s tenancy law even after the parties met a week and half earlier. Mr Howard wrote that they thought the meeting was ‘encouraging in that your client was willing to work diligently with the City to resolve his various Building Code issues’.
The city, however, received additional complaints from neighbors on the weekends of May 7-9 and May 14-16 that Mr. Ozeri “continued illegal transient rental of premises.”
In the letter, Mr Howard asked that the Airbnb page and other online advertisements for the property be removed “immediately”.
“To be clear, Mr. Ozeri must immediately end the illegal transient rental of the premises,” the assistant city attorney wrote.
The city says the property is upgraded with a single-family home, as well as a detached garage, in-ground pool, bulkheads and dock, cottage, pool house, fixed Airstream trailer and boathouse.
The one-story masonry residential dwelling has eight rooms, including four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen with an attached one-story garage and an in-ground swimming pool.
With the exception of the single-family home, the city maintains that all other uses of the property were built without the proper building permits and approvals.
The city is seeking an injunction prohibiting Canal House from renting the property without a rental license. He also claims $2,800 in unpaid rental inspection fees; $1,900 in unpaid “short term” rental permit fees; and $100,000 in civil penalties the city says is owed.
Riverhead Town police opened a confidential investigation into the property in June, according to court documents. A Riverhead sergeant assigned to the Detective Division contacted Mr. Ozeri via a pseudonym on June 9 and expressed interest in renting a room directly through him, rather than on an Airbnb. The sergeant attended the scene on June 14 and used a video recording device to document the scene. The sergeant agreed to pay $450 cash for a single night for the “Love Shack” after completing a tour.