Hispanics aren’t welcome in Southampton, a $10 million lawsuit alleges.
Officials in the Long Island town were so intent on interfering with a landlord who began renting to Hispanics, they “misplaced” key paperwork for his apartment building and harassed him with violations, the owner charges in court papers.
Victor La Terra, whose family has owned the small apartment building on Montauk Highway for 45 years, never had a problem with the town until 2014, when he began opening his units to those of Latino descent, he alleges in Brooklyn Federal Court papers.
The “misuse of power” included several violations that La Terra claims were “baseless, repetitive, or based upon hyper-technical claims,” according to the lawsuit filed against the Town of Southampton and two of its inspectors.
The town also alleged the building had no certificate of occupancy — but La Terra eventually confirmed his paperwork was in order after hiring someone to comb through town records.
Other area landlords escaped the town’s intense scrutiny, which included frequent, unannounced raids, he claims.
It’s at least the second time the Town of Southampton has been sued for allegedly targeting business owners who cater to Hispanics.
In 2008, the Hampton Bays Diner filed a lawsuit claiming they were subject to excessive violations after trying to draw in business with events aimed at Hispanics. The case, which ended in mistrial, is back before jurors in January.
“It is clear that something other than simple alleged zoning violations was the cause of the charges being asserted against my client,” said La Terra’s attorney, Andrew Campanelli.
Town officials did not return a message.