Gaddafi pitches tent in Bedford

September 22, 2009 9:47:56 PM PDT
Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi has decided to make the posh suburban town of Bedford his home away from home. Gaddafi is here for the United Nations General Assembly this week.

Police sources tell Eyewitness News that a tent has been set up on a property on Oregon Road. And it appears the property was rented from Donald Trump.

The Trump Organization said Gadhafi would not be coming to Trump's estate and insisted that Trump has not rented property to the Libyan. But it said part of the estate "was leased on a short-term basis to Middle Eastern partners, who may or may not have a relationship to Mr. Gadhafi. We are looking into the matter."

However, an attorney for the town of Bedford said the town ordered work to be stopped at the site late Tuesday.

"We believe the erection of a tent on the ... property violates several codes and laws of the town of Bedford," Attorney Joel Sachs said.

Sachs said officials found workers constructing the tent but could not communicate with them because they didn't speak English. He said they gave the order to stop the work to the property's caretaker.

"There is no such thing as diplomatic immunity when it comes to complying with local laws and ordinances," Sachs said. "This is a private piece of property and they have to comply with the laws of this municipality."

Town officials will return to the site Wednesday to make sure the Libyans are complying with the order, Sachs said.

The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivity and protocol concerns, said the property was obtained for the duration of this weeks' United Nations General Assembly. The official said no one would be staying there overnight.

Earlier, no-parking signs were going up near Trump's Seven Springs estate in Bedford, around 43 miles north of Manhattan, where residents include Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren. TV helicopters showed a tent on the Trump property. Police would not comment, and Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan would say only that the agency does not discuss the schedules or logistics of people it's protecting.

New York State Senator Vincent Leibell earlier confirmed that Gaddafi rented property in Bedford.

"He's not going to have many fans in Bedford or Westchester County, certainly not me," he said. "There's not going to be any welcome mat for him in Bedford."

Gaddafi, who hasn't been to the U.S. since he took power 40 years ago, has not found a warm welcome. His request to erect his tent in Manhattan's Central Park was turned down. Efforts to set up camp in Englewood, N.J., were also fought by the mayor until the Libyans abandoned efforts to win legal approval for the tent.

Gaddafi, who arrived in New York on Tuesday, will likely face protests over Scotland's recent release of Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which killed 270 people.

County Executive Andrew Spano, upon hearing reports that Gadhafi would stay over, said: "There is no legal way to prevent this as he is a head of state, despite the fact that he has a long history as a terrorist. However, from my point of view, he is not welcome in Westchester."

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey said Gadhafi had shown a lack of remorse for the bombing and was "unwelcome throughout the New York area."

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington.

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