Long Island high school bleacher controversy takes ugly turn

NORTH BABYLON, Long Island (WABC) -- Homeowners on Long Island who have been complaining about a new high school stadium grandstand being built in their backyards are calling foul after the school superintendent sent out a district-wide voicemail that mentioned them while notifying parents of threatening phone calls made to high school staff Wednesday morning.

The homeowners feel the message implied that at least one of them may be responsible for the phone calls.

The following is the text of the voicemail left by North Babylon School District Superintendent Glen Eschbach:

"A few residents whose homes abut to the high school have raised issue with the construction of the new stadium bleachers and their appearance from their yards, which back high school property. This morning, the district was made aware of several threatening voicemail messages left on various extensions within the high school offices. These threats were not made against the school or its student body, but rather they were directed towards specific staff members in regard to the bleacher project. These messages included bias, discriminatory, harassing and hateful sentiments. The police were immediately notified."

Eyewitness News was the first to report the story. Several homeowners on Spangle Drive in North Babylon are complaining about the extent of the 1,200-seat grandstand that now towers over their backyards.

They said the district never made them aware of the scale of the grandstand and how close it would be to their properties. The school district said it notified the residents about the extensive athletic field renovations at the high school as early as October 2017 through postcards, newsletters and open school board meetings.

Chris Cannella said early Thursday morning that someone threw eggs at his house, and he blames the superintendent's voicemail. He now worries about his two young children, who are students in the school district.

"I had to make sure, you know, that they're safe going to school, that they're not going to have any issues," he told Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne.

Cannella said he was questioned by police Wednesday afternoon, and he denies any involvement in the threatening phone calls.

"I gave them my phone," he said. "I said, 'You're more than welcome to give me a lie detector test, check my phone, check where I was, I have nothing to hide.'"

Barbara Seaman said she didn't sleep a wink last night because she was worried someone may damage her home.

"I am upset because I've never been accused of anything so bad like this," Seaman said through tears. "I would never do something like this. We were very peaceful in getting the press here to show our concerns about this."

Her husband, Jack Seaman, called the superintendent's voicemail unethical.

"I believe that he owes the homeowners an apology, a public apology, as well as a retraction of his statement," he said.

Marissa Gallo, with Syntax Communication Group, the public relations company that represents the North Babylon School District, said Eschbach was not available for an interview Thursday. She said the district could not comment on the voicemail, "as there is an active police investigation into the matter."

Cannella and the Seamans plan on attending a school board meeting Tuesday night to address the superintendent about the voicemail and the project.

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