By Jeanne Sager
HACKENSACK, NJ April 1, 2005 One of Livingston Manors best known benefactors has settled a civil case in New Jersey for $2.75 million.
Shandelee resident Andrew Krieger, the money behind the Livingston Manor Development Corporation which has gone far to develop the hamlets Main Street in recent years, also pled guilty last week to fourth degree criminal mischief in State Superior Court in Hackensack, NJ.
Krieger once owned land adjacent to Palisades Interstate Park in Alpine, NJ.
According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), he proposed a land exchange with the DEP in February 2002 a deal that would have enabled him to develop parkland along his property.
But no deal was in place when Krieger and his employees cleared more than one acre of parkland and illegally stored construction materials on State of New Jersey and Bergen County property, DEP officials said.
In that time, trees and vegetation were destroyed along with an old stone wall, and approximately one mile of trails was excavated, said the DEP.
Krieger was also accused of disturbing two small streams in the park.
The DEP and Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) and Bergen County subsequently took Krieger to court for his actions, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.
Both cases were settled with Kriegers admission of criminal mischief in the fourth degree and a promise to pay $750,000 to Bergen County and $2 million to the PIPC.
In a statement issued this week by Krieger, the businessman denies allegations that he destroyed parkland to build a tennis court calling them outlandish.
His friend and associate, Al Schreiber, said he was at the property on Tuesday and hes still mystified by the entire case.
When you go to the property and look at it, theres absolutely no damage, he said. Its a pristine piece of parkland.
But, Krieger said he made a pragmatic decision to resolve the civil litigations with Bergen County and the State of New Jersey.
I determined that it was in the best interest of my family to simply pay the settlement and move on with more constructive pursuits in my life, Krieger said.
Fortunately, he continued, the settlement will have absolutely no negative impact on my work in Livingston Manor.
In fact, Krieger noted, the resolution will free up an enormous amount of energy that had previously been spent on non-productive legal matters.
Krieger renewed his plans to continue work in Livingston Manor.
I want the people of Livingston Manor to know that I remain completely committed to doing everything possible to make the Manor the most desirable place to live and work in Sullivan County, he said.
Officials in New Jersey said the settlement shows their commitment to protecting the environment and admonished Krieger for his actions.
Kriegers expensive mistake should deter others from demonstrating similar disrespect for public property and the law, said DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell.
In my 20 years of public land management, I have never seen a case as severe as this, where an adjacent property owner took such a deliberate and willful action in damaging public park property, added Jim Hall, superintendent of the PIPC. Time finally ran out for the tycoon tree terminator paying for his acts.