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Updated: 1/22/2009 - 4:17 AM



Driven from their dream
Mold infests home; couple sues developer
  15 comments below

News-Review photo by Barbaraellen Koch
PuroClean workers Randy Althenn and Michael Sanchez removing mold from furniture in the Nydegger home in December.
Before closing the deal on their newly constructed dream home in The Highlands luxury development in Aquebogue, Brian Nydegger and his wife, Claudine, noticed cracks running through the walls of the home's basement.

The builder wouldn't allow them to hire an engineer to inspect the home, he said.

Still, they were anxious to move.

"I had this big, beautiful home sitting here," Mr. Nydegger said, recalling late 2006, when the couple closed on the house on Foxglove Row, alongside Long Island National Golf Club. "I had a big Rottweiler, my son and my wife in a small apartment.

"I would have done anything to get out of there."

But the Nydeggers have found themselves once again living in a small apartment. Since taking ownership of the home, the cracks have only grown, spitting water into his basement with each rainfall, Mr. Nydegger said, The developers never adequately addressed the problem, he said.

'If there's anything wrong we want to repair it. We're not looking for a fight.'
And then came the mold.

"Once they did the mold test [in September], the industrial hygienist, they said get out of the house immediately, that we have unlivable mold contamination throughout our entire home," said Mr. Nydegger, 35. "This was my dream home. I saved my money, I put half down and it's all destroyed. Everything in my house is ruined.

"I've lost everything."

Last month, Mr. Nydegger filed a lawsuit against the prominent developer behind the building project, Westminster Communities Inc., as well as Riverhead Sound Associates and Sam Gershwin, claiming the entities involved knowingly sold him a defective house -- then failed to properly fix the problem as required in the warranty.

"They injected caulk into the cracks; they put very hard cement on the inside to try to stop it; they put drainage pipes in to drain water away from the home," he said. "None of this worked. To this day it still leaks."

An attorney representing Westminster Communities, which has overseen impressive residential development projects in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, said the company this week arranged to send an engineer to inspect the colonial-style home.

"We're going to go take a look at it and see what can be done," said the attorney, Alan Hammer, of the Pennsylvania-based WolfBlock law firm. "If there's anything wrong we want to repair it. We're not looking for a fight."

"If it's our responsibility, then we will be responsible," he continued. "We're in the middle of a project here. You can't duck a problem. You want an angry homeowner in the middle of your complex when you have 40 or 50 homes to sell?"

Told of Mr. Hammer's response this week, Mr. Nydegger's lawyer, Alex Ferrini of New York, said that after several months of back-and-forth it sounded as if the company had changed its approach in dealing with his client.

Mr. Ferrini alleged that as recently as November, Sam Gershwin, identified as the president of Westminster Communities, told Mr. Nydegger he had no interest in personally seeing the cracks in his basement walls, and that he would instead "see you in court."

"Maybe they're trying to do what's right and not the knee-jerk reaction of trying to deny the problem," Mr. Ferrini said. "If they're taking that approach now, we're glad to hear it."

He called the cracks in the foundation, pictures of which were supplied to The News-Review, one of the worst cases of defective construction he had ever seen.

"The cracks in that basement are eight feet long," he said. "These people were essentially duped into buying this home and the physical damage of this house can't be disputed.

"Certainly the Nydeggers weren't growing mold spores in their basement."

The lawsuit is seeking more than $3 million in damages.

Mr. Nydegger, who works as a partner in a wealth management firm, said the house, for which he paid almost $800,000, was decimated by the mold and needs a complete overhaul, along with a fixed foundation.

During their time in the house, all four family members fell ill with various symptoms of mold spore exposure, including the couple's infant daughter whose left lung partially collapsed, Mr. Nydegger said.

The couple's homeowners insurance company denied their claim.

"No insurance policies have mold coverage anymore because the claims are so big," Mr. Nydegger said. "Nobody knows that, and nobody would until you run into a problem like mine.

"My son is torn up," he said of his 3-year-old. "Every single one of his stuffed animals, every one of his toys had to be left behind, all of his books, puzzles. We had to leave anything that meant anything to him because if it came with us it would contaminate wherever we went."

mwhite@timesreview.com

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Just wondering if this mold problem been resolved in all the other houses built there. Also has the lawsuit been settled. Thank you.




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safe mold removal : 1/17/2009
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