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Bitter Battle Waged Over Queens Seawall

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A bitter battle has been waged over a seawall in Queens, CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported.

The owner of the seawall, Al Risi, says it’s necessary to protect his home, but the government has told him to tear it down.

Risi says the Department of Environmental Conservation has been after him for 18 years to remove the seawall made of rock.

“It’s totally, totally unfair,” Risi told Murdock. “I have a permit, but there were two drawings.”

The DEC approved his first drawing, but says it never received the second and slapped him with several violations.

In a hearing report from 2004, the DEC claims Risi violated the terms of the permit by failing to provide sediment control as well as a notice when starting construction and built additional structures in the regulated tidal wetland zone—including his deck.

Risi was ordered to pay $150,000 in fines and to remove the seawall so that it starts 20 feet from his home, rather than 80 feet.

“You can’t tell me to jeopardize my home and let everyone keep their property,” Risi said.

When Hurricane Sandy stormed ashore with a surge of nearly 9 feet, Risi’s home sustained roughly $300,000 in damages. The homeowner says that if it weren’t for the seawall, the destruction would have been far worse and that his home could have been a total loss.

“If this wall was 20 feet from the house and the wave hit, the impact on the house would be catastrophic,” Risi said.

Senator Tony Avella says he stands with Risi.

“What the state is asking him to do is go too far in addressing this issue,” Avella said. “If this was taken, it would cause more harm to the environment than leaving it.”

Together, Avella and Risi are pushing for a compromise with the DEC. Risi says he’s willing to pay the fine, but draws the line at removing the seawall.

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