Porsche-driving New Hyde Park squatters evicted after nearly one year of neighbors’ effort

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Porsche-driving New Hyde Park squatters evicted after nearly one year of neighbors’ effort
Nassau County sheriffs and police officers evicted squatters staying at 39 Brussel Drive Friday morning. Denton Gayle can be seen in a blue flannel. (Photo by Taylor Herzlich)

After nearly a year of occupying a home at 39 Brussel Drive in New Hyde Park, police evicted a group of  Porsche-driving squatters Friday morning.

Sheriffs and police officers arrived at the property around 8 a.m. and the eviction process began around 9 a.m., lasting a few hours, neighbors said.

Movers carried chairs, cardboard boxes, an air mattress and what looked like a bird cage into a large moving van parked in front of the property.

One of the squatters, Denton Gayle, carried full garbage bags from the house into his Porsche Cayenne before taking out his phone and recording police officers, movers, town councilmembers and journalists at the scene.

The eviction comes after persistent efforts from neighbors to work with the town on evicting the squatters, Gayle, 29, and Margaret Grover, 19.

“The fact of the matter is, we kind of showed what can be done if you stay vigilant and on top of it,” a neighbor Al, who wished to keep his full name anonymous, said.

But, Al said, neighbors should not have to be so involved in eviction processes and that squatter’s laws need to change.

An employee of the preservation company handling the house, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed. He waited across the street from the property and said he was there to lock up the house at the end of the eviction process.

He said he wants squatter laws in New York to change. The employee claimed he has lost multiple properties to squatters over the past few years and called squatters laws “biased.”

North Hempstead Councilwoman Christine Liu was at the scene, standing at the house next door to 39 Brussel Drive as movers carried belongings to the van.

One neighbor said that this appearance was just a photo opportunity and claimed Liu had nothing to do with expediting the eviction process – that it was a result of the neighbors’ hard work.

“I am grateful to the residents in the community for their responsiveness, tenacity, and legal pursuits following the illegal occupancy of 39 Brussel Drive,” Liu told Blank Slate Media in a statement. “Given the brazen behavior of the occupants at 39 Brussel Drive, the Town supported the parties involved in the pursuit of legal remedies and provided resources to secure the property. I will continue to work with our Town Attorney’s office to ensure U.S. Bank Trust National Association fulfills its legal obligation to foreclose on this property in an expeditious manner.”

Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said the Town of North Hempstead expedited the process by paying for movers and storage as required by law. The town is being proactive to make sure similar illegal occupancies do not take place in the future, DeSena said.

“Our Town attorney has already filed an action with New York State Supreme Court under the state zombie housing law to compel the bank to foreclose on this property so it can be sold to new owners and squatters can’t reoccupy the house in the future,” DeSena said in a statement to Blank Slate Media.

Gayle and Grover first moved into the home at Brussel Drive, which was foreclosed on in 2013, in August. Since the bank owning the property changed in recent years, the foreclosure is technically still in progress, neighbor Jerry Jacob said.

The couple brought along their baby, dog, Porsche and a host of trouble for neighbors, who say the couple tormented the neighborhood with an aggressive dog, made vulgar gestures to neighbors, waited outside neighbors’ doors and yelled slurs and filed retaliatory fake police reports against neighbors.

“We’re all extremely frustrated and we cannot believe the shenanigans that they’re playing and they’re not even law-abiding, tax-paying citizens,” Jacob told Blank Slate Media.

The squatters did not leave without a fight.

In their most recent attempt to stay at the property, the couple filed an affidavit for heirship on April 1 in an attempt to stop the bank from foreclosing on the property, according to legal documents.

“We believe all loans/mortgages are satisfied as attached & we have a rent to own since June 1st, 2023,” Grover and Gayle wrote in the affidavit papers.

Neighbors said they presume the affidavit was an attempt to prolong the eviction process since the eviction typically requires a bank title secured through foreclosure.

The couple also wrote that they have been “maintaining and improving the property” since June.

When Grover and Gayle first moved into the empty house, conditions weren’t good.

Police were alerted to the inadequate living conditions at the foreclosed home and investigated the property in October, Jacob said, when officers discovered the home had no electricity, hot water or plumbing.

Both squatters were charged with endangering the welfare of a child and pleaded not guilty. Gayle was also charged with second-degree obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest.

The Town of North Hempstead Building Department determined the home had failed its inspection and was unlivable without working bathrooms.

William Igbokwe, the lawyer representing Gayle and Grover, said the home was in great shape and his clients have spent money renovating the house.

“They’ve spent money. They have a one-year-old child. That child is now the subject of a family court manner,” Igbokwe said.

After the couple was arrested and removed from the home in October, they presented a two-year lease beginning June 1 for the home in court, claiming they had been illegally locked out of the home by the landlord, Edward Iacono. But Iacono had died in 2016.

Igbokwe said when the couple entered the lease, they believed they were entering a lease with the landlord. It was only when the neighbors became involved that Gayle and Grover “began to question: Is it possible they were dealing with someone who wasn’t Edward Iacono?” Igbokwe said.

In December 2023, Nassau County District Judge Christoper Coschignano granted the couple occupancy of the home.

For months, neighbors have faced a legal gridlock over the illegal occupancy.

They won a small victory when Coschignano reversed his initial decision on March 6 and ordered the squatters to be evicted.

The town said it would pay for the commercial movers and 30 days of storage required for the eviction. This is a requirement before police can move forward with an eviction.

The residents of Brussel Drive say the squatters have created an unsafe environment, one the residents have endured for months.

“A lot of people jumped to conclusions. The couple suffered because they believed they had a right to that home,” Igbokwe said.

It is unclear where Grover and Gayle are headed now that their time at Brussel Drive is up.

Many neighbors said they are worried the couple might return to Maple Lane where they had lived earlier.

Grover and Gayle legally rented an apartment on Maple Lane in 2022, according to Sgt. Richard Soto, a Nassau County police officer and expert on illegal occupancy and evictions.

Eventually, Grover and Gayle stopped paying their rent at Maple Lane, said Soto.

He said the owner of the property was unsure of how to proceed; she contemplated taking the couple to landlord-tenant court but assumed it would be a large expense.

But before the owner made a decision, Grover and Gayle informed her they were moving out, said Soto. The couple then moved into the 39  Brussel Drive home in 2023.

The property at 1030 Maple Lane is currently undergoing construction because of a leak in the building, Soto said.

Grover and Gayle returned to Maple Lane and told the owner they are still living at her property and cannot be kicked out because they have a signed lease through 2024, Soto  said.

“Basically, because she’s letting them still in [to the property], we have a problem,” Soto said. “I’m not saying that they can’t be arrested. These are all gray areas that haven’t been dealt with.”

Some neighbors said they assume the couple will return to Maple Lane and try to squat there, especially since some neighbors reported seeing a different moving van on Maple Lane this morning.

 

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