Howard Lutnick, the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, filed a federal lawsuit last week against Southampton Town municipal boards for refusing to approve his application to install a basketball court at his Bridgehampton estate, the latest in a string of lawsuits over what he is permitted to do with land that is subject to an agricultural covenant.
David Arntsen, an attorney with law firm Devitt Spellman Barrett who is representing the town, said Wednesday that the previous owner agreed to an agricultural easement over a portion of the Bridgehampton property. That agreement lasts for perpituity and any future owner must adhere to it.
“It’s the town’s position the a basketball court would not be a permissive use on the agricultural easement portion of the property,” Arntsen said.
The easement allows for a single-family dwelling. “There was a clause in the grant that allowed for compatible recreational uses,” Arntsen said, though he reiterated that a basketball court is not compatible with an agricultural use, in the town’s eyes.
This lawsuit comes on the heels of another federal lawsuit Lutnick filed against the town. The first one concerned the town planning board’s refusal to approve the size of a barn Arntsen proposed for the property. The board instead offered to approve a much smaller barn and put a number of conditions in place, such as removing a baseball field that exists on the property.
“They did not deny him the right to have barn,” Arntsen said of the planning board. “They just limited it in size and scope.”
Arntsen said the town is moving to dismiss the first lawsuit and will likely do the same for the latest one based on whether the lawsuits were filed in the correct venue.
“It is our position that these disputes do not rise to the level of federal court disputes, and the proper forum is the state courts,” Arntsen said, nothing that Lutnick has also sued the town in New York State court over both of these matters.