UPDATE: Monday, 2:30 p.m.
In the trenches of a land dispute with her neighbor, Southampton Village and Southampton Town Justice Barbara Wilson chained her Dodge Dakota truck to her yellow Toyota SUV, and chained both vehicles to a column on her front porch Monday morning. She said she did so because her neighbor, Tony Gugliotta, again threatened to tow away her SUV.
The two have been in a land dispute over a small piece of Ms. Wilson’s Elm Street driveway that Mr. Gugliotta said is on his property. He has plans to landscape the area where the driveway crosses his property, removing part of her driveway, he said.
In an effort to stake her claim, Ms. Wilson has kept her bright yellow SUV parked on the disputed line that divides the properties. She posted “No trespassing” signs and warnings of punishment under civil and criminal law inside the car’s windows, but has since taken them down.
The disputed land is currently part of Ms. Wilson’s driveway, and she said it has been since her family moved into the home at 165 Elm Street in the 1940s. Although both their survey plans show that a sliver of her driveway belongs to Mr. Gugliotta, Ms. Wilson is claiming adverse possession, or “squatter’s rights,” which allows a person to claim title to property that he or she has used for a period of years, unchallenged.
The two are seemingly in a stand off, waiting for the other to make a move.
Drivers traveling down Southampton Village’s iconic Elm Street have slowed down to view a spectacle taking place at the property line separating homeowners Barbara Wilson and Tony Gugliotta.
The two have been in a land dispute over a sliver of Ms. Wilson’s Elm Street driveway that Mr. Gugliotta said is on his property, and in the last month the disagreement has grown into an all-out feud.
In an effort to stake her claim, Ms. Wilson, who is a Southampton Village and Southampton Town justice, has kept her bright yellow SUV parked on the disputed line that divides the properties. Boldly posted inside the car’s windows are “No trespassing” signs and warnings of punishment under civil and criminal law, designed to keep Mr. Gugliotta from having the vehicle towed.
The land in question is currently part of Ms. Wilson’s driveway, and she said it has been since her family moved into the home at 165 Elm Street in the 1940s. A survey taken of the site in the 1940s is slightly different from today’s survey: approximately 3½ feet is missing from the southwestern side of her property, in the shape of a pizza slice. Both Ms. Wilson’s and Mr. Gugliotta’s up-to-date surveys reflect the change, putting the property line in the driveway.
But Ms. Wilson is claiming adverse possession, or “squatter’s rights,” which allows a person to claim title to property that he or she has used for a period of years, unchallenged.
To Mr. Gugliotta, who owns 161 Elm Street, the survey doesn’t lie—and he wants to erect a fence on the property line to make the distinction clear.
“She’s not cooperating—she’s a bully of a neighbor,” Mr. Gugliotta said. “I can’t put a fence there, because she’s purposely parking there every day.”
Mr. Gugliotta owns TS Construction of Sayville and has restored his $1.6 million home—but not without trouble, he said. Before Ms. Wilson left for a recent two-week trip to Europe, she left her SUV parked on the disputed line. Mr. Gugliotta said he was seriously thinking about towing it but opted not to.
Ms. Wilson said she’ll keep her car there as long as it takes to work the matter out, and is adamant about charging Mr. Gugliotta with criminal trespass and burglary if he decides to call a towing company.
“I’m protecting the further destruction of my property,” she said on Monday. “If he tows it, he’s going to be liable. I don’t want to own or take his property, I simply want to be able to pass through my driveway the way my mother, father, grandmother, aunts and uncles have.”
Trying to literally stake out his property line before Ms. Wilson parked her car, Mr. Gugliotta put up line markers—which Ms. Wilson promptly pulled out and, in one case, threw on his property, he said. He then placed stones on the line; Ms. Wilson said she couldn’t move them, so his own workers moved them for her.
She claims her neighbor started the feud by tearing out a portion of the driveway that is on his side of the line. “He ripped out what I had there—bricks and cement—he ripped it out so I couldn’t drive into the driveway,” she said, adding that he later put a nail in the driveway to mark his territory. That’s when she decided to deploy the SUV to mark the territory.
Both parties said they are being blackmailed. Mr. Gugliotta said Ms. Wilson is seeking an easement allowing her to continue using the driveway, and she would not support his application for a variance for a pool he wanted to add to his property unless he gave her the easement. He said he came back with “If we get the variance, we’ll give you the easement.”
Ms. Wilson said she remembers the situation differently—she said before she gave him an answer, she checked with the State Judicial Grievance Committee to see if she was even allowed to comment on any application before any board. She said she declined to comment, and that is when Mr. Gugliotta refused giving her the slice of the property he is claiming. “I don’t understand why he just can’t give me an easement over the property,” she said. “I’m not going to be blackmailed into it, which is what he’s attempting to do by doing this.”
The trouble began back in 2010, when Mr. Gugliotta sent his neighbor a letter explaining that, according to the Dolliver Land Surveying company, a 3½-foot section of her driveway crosses over the property boundary. The letter states that he wanted to remove the hedges on his property near the boundary line and landscape the area where the driveway crosses his property, removing part of her driveway.
Since then, the neighbors have had repeated run-ins concerning Mr. Gugliotta’s arborvitaes crossing the property line, shingles falling off the roof of his house and Ms. Wilson’s treatment of his workers.
Both Mr. Gugliotta and Ms. Wilson say the police cannot get involved since it is a civil matter.
“I just want to go on with my life,” Ms. Wilson said. “I want to be a nice neighbor and work this out without having to go to the courts.”
Mr. Gugliotta said he is ready to settle in court—with one stipulation.
“I was willing to give her an easement, but would I do it now? Just pay my legal fees,” he said. “She wouldn’t hear of it.”