Maspeth man sues state after not receiving eminent domain funds

A Maspeth businessman who claims he still has not received payment from the state — nearly a year after his land was seized through Eminent Domain — is suing.

Sass Sheena’s property along 43rd Avenue in Maspeth was appropriated by the state as part of the redevelopment of the Kosciuszko Bridge. While the land was taken in June, Sheena, 49, says that he is yet to receive the money for his property.

“They have my building and now I’m having a hard time getting paid,” he said. “For me it’s a hardship.”

The money, more than $2.8 million, has been placed in a comptroller’s account. Sheena filed a suit in January.

According to Sheena’s lawyer, Michael Rikon, the state can place the funds in a comptroller’s account only if there is a conflict.

“A conflict exists when two or more parties claim the money in a title dispute. That’s not the case here,” Rikon said. “There is no question who the owner is.”

A Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesperson said that the agency placed the funds in the account based on a the attorney general office’s decision.

Since the building was appropriated nine months ago, Sheena has had no source of income. His income previously came from rent from the tenants on his Maspeth property.

“Obviously you want the money from your property so you can reinvest or go into another business,” said Sheena, who is married with four children. “It’s unjust what they’re doing.”

Rikon said the state deposited the money into the account without notifying his client. A separate lawsuit must be filed to determine if there are any other claims on the money.

This is going on throughout the state, said Rikon, whose firm has been handling Eminent Domain cases for nearly 90 years.

“It is incredible how they’ve gotten away with what they been doing, it’s extortion,” he said.

Letters had been sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo while he was attorney general and to Senator Chuck Schumer, but nothing has been done as of yet, Rikon claims.

Work is scheduled to begin on the Kosciuszko Bridge in the summer of 2014.

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