Seaview Says Sign is Out of Line

By Emma BoskovskiA sign that reads Law Office of Adam. C. Abrams, Esq. Attorney at Law, on a residential property in Seaview, has created a hostile environment between the Seaview Homeowners Association and sign owner Adam Abrams.“The association has a rule that has been passed that no commercial signs are supposed to be posted in Seaview,” said Thomas Ruskin, president of the Seaview Homeowners Association. “The purpose of that, for the association, is to not make it look like a commercial place as you drive through Seaview. So, there are no signs allowed for real estate, ‘for sale’ signs, or people advertising what they do. Once that was passed by the board to be instituted, we had received half a dozen complaints from different residents for different purposes.”The town of Seaview operates under numerous municipalities. Its residents comply with the laws and regulations of Suffolk County, the Town of Islip, the Town of Brookhaven, and the Seaview Homeowners Association. Abrams’ property lies within the Town of Islip section of Seaview.“Just because it doesn’t fall underneath one municipality’s law, doesn’t mean it doesn’t follow underneath another municipality’s laws and regulations,” said Ruskin. “In Adam’s particular case, I believe his sign possibly fell in violation of Islip’s code, but moreover fell in violation of the association’s rules and regulations. After being asked to take it down, he has taken it down … and basically as you say, ‘problem solved.’”According to the Town of Islip Code Chapter 68, Article XXIX, “The following signs are permitted,” one of which being “home occupation: a sign which identifies only the name and/or occupation of a practitioner or one conducting a permitted home occupation in a dwelling.”“As an attorney, I would put my sign out,” said Abrams. “They have been trying to get me to take it down since 2015. My response is that the Town of Islip allows me to put my sign out, and the Seaview Homeowners Association is not a government, so they cannot deny me the right to put up my sign. That’s who I am – I am an attorney. I used to have an office in Ocean Beach next to Scoops, and now I practice law out of my home, and I have every right to put my sign out.”The Homeowners Association claims to reserve the right to impose sanctions by passing resolutions. According to the Community Associations Institute (CAI), an advocacy group for community association managers based in Falls Church, Virginia, such a resolution falls under the purview of a board decision. It follows a set format, and is formally adopted by the board.“The association initially gave me a hard time about my sign on June 17, 2015, when somebody approached me and told me in Seaview there should be no signs on residential properties,” said Abrams. “I responded that unless there is something passed by the Town of Islip that says my sign is illegal – I am leaving my sign up. This is the first year that they have done something about it, as they now have passed a resolution that can deprive me of my benefits of membership without any authority.”There are three basic resolutions concerning property association governance according to the CAI: use, appearance, and policy. The appearance of the Seaview community as a whole is part of the matter at hand, and ultimately policy resolutions directly affect the rights and responsibilities of each homeowner within the Homeowners Association.“A resolution was passed that prohibited signs, and if you do not comply within 10 days, the association reserves the right to suspend your privileges,” said Abrams. “In my case, that meant a threat to remove my boat from the marina. My problem is this is a violation of the bylaws. The bylaws say if you don’t pay your dues for more than a year, or you do something that is contrary to the welfare of the association, the board can bring it up at a meeting and say ‘we want to suspend your privileges,’ but it requires a 15-day certified mail notice, and an opportunity to be heard in front of a general membership meeting, and two-thirds of those community members have to vote to kick you out.”According to the Seaview Association Constitution and By-Laws, “The organization is formed and shall exist for the following purposes,” one of which being “to adopt regulations from time to time, necessary or desirable to accomplish any of the foregoing or related purposes to initiate and sponsor the adoption of ordinances, statues, or legislation, whether municipal, county, state or federal, designed to accomplish such purposes or ones related thereto.“I am being denied the benefits of the bylaws as well as the benefit of due process and equal protection,” said Abrams. “As the board goes around making up what they call ‘resolutions,’ are just things that bother people, and then enforcing that by depriving me of a property right. I paid my dues, I pay for my boat slip – I’ve paid everything. Yet, they are saying ‘get out of the marina unless you take your sign down.’ The association is doing these things out of nepotism, and out of retaliation.”Any member may be suspended for a period or expelled for cause such as violation of any of the bylaws or provisions of the constitution of the association or for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the association, according to the Seaview Association Constitution and By-Laws. However, such suspension or expulsion shall be effected only upon recommendation of the Board of Directors to any regulation or special meeting of the membership of the association and upon a two-thirds vote of the members present at such meeting, provided that a statement of said charges shall have been mailed and registered to the member under charges at his last recorded address 15 days before the date of said meeting and the member shall have been given the opportunity to be hard at the time and place mentioned in such notice.“Whatever it is that those 20 people that create the Homeowners Association don’t like, they pass a resolution that makes things the Association doesn’t favor ‘illegal,’” said Abrams. “I should not be deprived my benefits of membership for doing nothing illegal, specifically when I have paid my dues. The real danger here is that the politics of our community have shifted to be exclusive, and try to keep out, or price out, the people that they do not find desirable. There is a growing sense of entitlement and power, in that they have the power of a government but have none of the obligations of the government.”