It started with two neighbors talking trash and spread into "Bogie" Seaman's front yard.
White toilet seats hang from trees amid a porcelain garden of junked commodes, urinals and sinks. Nearby sits a discarded refrigerator, decorated with a clown's head, in this extraordinarily affluent village.
Seaman, an eccentric millionaire, deems it art. Most other residents call it an eyesore. And neither side in this eight-year-old fight is willing to budge.
"I've been having trouble with the village, and this is the way I express the way I feel," self-proclaimed artist H. Bogart Seaman Jr. says, pointing to the trash gallery on his three-acre waterfront property.
It's Seaman's claim of First Amendment rights of freedom of expression that has handcuffed Centre Island Village officials in their battle to remove the display from his property, nestled in an elegant community of manicured lawns, English gardens and America's second oldest yacht club.
"This is not someone putting up pink flamingos, which you may not feel are attractive," said Michael Chalos, a maritime environmental attorney and a village trustee. "This is not artwork. It's pure malice done to spite a neighbor."
The art collection debuted in 1997 during a Hatfield-McCoy-style dispute between Seaman and next-door neighbor John van Merkensteijn III. Seaman complained that his bedroom was illuminated nightly by outdoor lighting installed by van Merkensteijn. Village officials measured the amps, agreed and told van Merkensteijn to dim the lights. He complied, said village Mayor Jack Williams.
But the bickering continued, with Seaman filing petty grievances against van Merkensteijn -- such as leaving a garage door open with the light on.
One night, Seaman dumped a row of broken appliances along their shared property line. Van Merkensteijn, a lawyer, filed a nuisance lawsuit.
State Supreme Court Justice Ute Lally, a Centre Island resident, dismissed the case, saying the plaintiff had failed to show that Seaman's debris met the legal criteria for a nuisance finding.
Van Merkensteijn put his white-shingled, 11-bedroom mansion up for sale. It was purchased last year for $8 million by media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who became only the second-most-famous resident of the two-mile sliver of land off Long Island's famed Gold Coast. Its 500 residents already included singer Billy Joel.
Seaman said he has no dispute with Murdoch, whose empire includes the New York Post and Fox News Channel. But he refuses to remove the "artistic" trash clearly visible from Murdoch's new retreat.
"I told him, 'I am sorry I messed it up for you, but I want to be compensated for the damages I suffered from the other guy,' " Seaman said. He is hoping the junk will persuade Murdoch to cancel the sale and force van Merkensteijn to move back in. Van Merkensteijn was reached at his new home in a neighboring town but had no comment.
Murdoch, only an occasional visitor, is ignoring the porcelain display, Williams said. Murdoch was traveling and not available for comment, spokesman Howard Rubenstein said.