Hamptons builder Joe Farrell sued for $36M in tree-chopping dispute

Bridgehampton homeowner claims developer trespassed on property, felled 120 expensive trees

Joe Farrell (Getty; Illustration by the Real Deal)
Joe Farrell (Getty; Illustration by the Real Deal)

Money may not grow on trees, but chopping them down could cost one developer millions.

A Bridgehampton homeowner sued Joe Farrell this week, accusing the luxury home builder of trespassing on her property and cutting down 120 trees without her permission.

Susan Burnside wants a Suffolk County court to award her up to $36 million, depending on the value of the arboreal assets removed from her home at 134 Maple Lane.

(Photo by Brooke Chapman)

(Photo by Brooke Chapman)

Burnside claims that each of the tall oak, maple and pine trees on her property was 50 to 60 years old and worth up to $100,000, resulting in damages of $12 million. She asked the court to punitively treble the claim because the destruction was done “intentionally, willfully and with knowing disregard.”

Farrell wanted to build a house for one of his children on the neighboring property, 184 Maple Lane, also known as Lumber Lane, and clearing the trees on an adjacent 9,500-square-foot strip of land would provide a setback, according to Burnside’s daughter, Brooke Chapman. Burnside had offered to sell Farrell the portion of the property where the trees stood, but Farrell balked at the proposed price of $1 million, Chapman said.

(An aerial of Susan Burnside's Property)

(An aerial of Susan Burnside’s Property)

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Another trade discussed last January — to swap the land for a smaller parcel of Farrell’s next door, plus several parking spots Burnside wanted near the SoulCycle studio she owned in Bridgehampton — was cut short when Farrell “knowingly entered [the property] and … cut, removed, injured, damaged and destroyed the trees,” according to the lawsuit.

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A text message exchange between Farrell and the Burnside family last January, which The Real Deal reviewed, suggested that no deal was agreed upon, and that the felling of the trees surprised the Burnside family.

Farrell did not respond to a request for comment. Known for building mansions in the Hamptons, Farrell sold his 17,000-square-foot Sandcastle at 612 Halsey Lane in Bridgehampton last year for $31 million, nearly enough to cover the alleged damage from his tree rampage.

The high-flying developer ruffled feathers in East Hampton earlier this month when his application to demolish and replace a 50-year-old beach cottage at 175 Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett became the subject of “a heated public hearing,” the East Hampton Star reported.

Farrell’s business, like many tied to the housing market, is likely to be facing headwinds.

Buyers flocked to the Hamptons during the pandemic, but sales slowed considerably as the market turned in the second half of this year. Signed contracts were down 53 percent in November compared to the same month last year. Contracts for homes asking between $10 million and $20 million, however, held even.