Spitzer And Dec Announce $500,000 Judgment Against Brooklyn Man Who Violated State Wetlands Law

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill today announced that Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Gerald S. Held has ordered the former owner of a residential property to remove an illegal bulkhead which he installed, and to pay a fine of $500,000 pursuant to the Tidal Wetlands Law. The statute prohibits construction, dredging or filling in tidal wetlands without a DEC permit. The judgment, against Robert Brooke, who currently resides at 2162 Hendrickson Street in Brooklyn, is the largest obtained in a wetlands case by the Attorney General's office. The property is located at 2693 Arkansas Drive in Mill Basin, Brooklyn.

Mill Basin contains numerous tidal wetlands that provide an important habitat for wildlife, birds, and fish. The State charged that in 1987 Brooke had constructed a bulkhead and filled in wetlands without the requisite permit. Pursuant to an agreement reached with DEC in 1992, Brooke agreed to remove the bulkhead and fill and pay the State a $4,000 civil penalty. His refusal to keep that agreement resulted in the imposition by Judge Held of the far greater penalty.

"I am pleased the Court recognizes our efforts to ensure that those who violate state environmental law will be held responsible," Spitzer said, "It is particularly significant that the defendant's failure to fulfill his agreement to pay the civil penalty resulted in the imposition of a much higher penalty by the Court. Violators must know that they will face severe consequences if they renege on agreements made with the State."

"This decision reaffirms New York State's commitment to protecting wetlands and preserving the important role they play in the environment," Commissioner Cahill said. "New York's wetlands provide important habitat for fish and wildlife while serving as a natural filter for runoff pollution and their destruction or degradation will not be tolerated."

The case was investigated by the DEC and referred for prosecution to the Attorney General's office. It was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Jeanna E. Hussey and Norman Spiegel of the Environmental Protection Bureau, headed by Bureau Chief Peter Lehner, in cooperation with DEC attorney Udo Drescher and Marine Resources Technician Melissa Alvarez.