A civil trial over beach rights versus private property rights among three people who were once friends continued on Thursday following , as plaintiff Christine Rivera spent her entire day in court on the witness stand.
Directly examined by her attorney, Jordan Behar, cross-examined by defendant Paul Calabro's attorney, Dave Raimondo, and questioned once again by each, the Mattituck homeowner took the stand around 12:20 and left at 4:25, with an 1:15 break in between for lunch.
At issue is whether Calabro violated the property rights of Rivera and her husband, Richard, when the two claim that on two separate occasions in 2008 and 2009 he set up a beach chair and umbrella on their property south of the mean high tide mark on the Long Island Sound, trespassing into their property. The Rivera's property abuts a public road-end owned by Southold Town to the east, and east of that, , owned by the .
On Thursday, lawyers on both sides explored Rivera's past history with Calabro, Rivera's own knowledge of her property line, and how Rivera has treated others who she says have trespassed on her property, among other topics.
Rivera said she doesn't bother people fishing on the beach standing on her property, or people walking through it.
"But not people setting up a beach umbrella, and whatnot," she said. "Ninety-nine point nine percent of people are very respectful. And if we ask people to go to the public side, 99.9 percent of the time they do."
Rivera said she and her husband's relationship with Calabro — who has owned the house across the street for nearly 40 years — started getting adversarial in 2006 to 2007. Prior to that, she said, he would ask to cut through their back yard when using their wooden boardwalk to head toward the beach, and did not previously set up chairs or umbrellas on their property.
Raimondo attempted several times throughout his line of questioning to reference a lawsuit won by the Riveras in May of 2007 over the State of New York and Southold Town, the result of which granted the Riveras the sand built-up in front of their property which has accumulated just west of the Mattituck Inlet jetty. However the references were often objected by Behar, and sustained by State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Pastoressa.
Raimondo asked Rivera if she noticed where the high water mark was on the days of the alleged trespassing — as he did yesterday's witnesses — and she could not recall. He read aloud a disposition from Rivera noting that there was no physical marking denoting her property line at the time of the alleged trespassing.
Rivera said Calabro has told her several times over the years, "You don't own the beach," and the 79-year-old Calabro was seen shaking his head several times throughout the day at the defense table.
While Rivera said incidents between Calabro and she and her husband started as early as 2006, she did not call the police on him until 2008, and never asked to have him arrested.
"I always thought we could resolve this amicably," she said. "We had been friends for 30-plus years."
Litigation will resume on Friday, as Raimundo is expected to bring forth a character witness and surveyor.