Alan Schnurman, an attorney and real estate investor, said he got a call early in May from the gardener at a rental house he owns at 293 Newlight Lane in Bridgehampton, telling him, “You’ve got to see this.”
Mr. Schnurman, who has been living at another property he owns upstate in Duchesse County, made the trip to Bridgehampton, where he discovered that what he called “my wall of forest,” a 20-foot strip of vegetation that ran along his property line and a new house being built next door, had been clear cut by a crew hired by the developer of the neighboring property, eliminating privacy for his tenant. “They can see right through to the new house under construction,” he said.
Mr. Schnurman said about 4,100 square feet of vegetation that included about 30 trees as well as vines, brambles, and other ground coverage was removed.
He said he confronted a contractor at the scene and was told that his gardener had given permission for the work, which, he said, his gardener vehemently denied.
“You can imagine how outraged I was,” he said. “Even if the gardener said ‘yes,’ I’m the owner.”
Mr. Schnurman said he complained to the Southampton Town Building Department, which directed him to the Town Police.
Now, he says he is going to take the developer, Vincent Primiano, to court in an effort to be compensated for his losses, which he estimated at more than $100,000. “In New York State, if someone cuts down trees on your property you are entitled to treble damages,” he said.
Mr. Schnurman said he spoken to Mr. Primiano about restoring his property. “He basically told me to take a hike when I asked him to restore it,” offering to plant only five new trees, he said. “He took the position that he was doing us a favor.”
On Monday, citing the threat of a lawsuit, Mr. Primiano declined to comment for this article, saying only that Mr. Schnurman’s version of the story was not accurate. “I have to talk to my lawyer, and I’ll get back to you,” he said.
A visit to the site last weekend showed that a row of healthy privet hedges had been planted on Mr. Primiano’s side of the property line, while Mr. Schnurman’s property line remained largely denuded of vegetation. “I told him, ‘Don’t you dare touch my property,’” Mr. Schnurman said. “Don’t go on it, and don’t touch it.”