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  • By Jennifer Polovetsky On Monday, January 29 th, 2018 · no Comments · In , , , ,

      The Grumpy Cat is getting some additional publicity, but not for a new meme, commercial, or t-shirt design. This time, it’s because Tardar Sauce (the cat’s real name), has been awarded $710,000 in a case by a California federal court. According to Grumpy Cat’s lawyer David Jonelis, it was the first time an internet meme had won a court case. And now you know why this story interests us. According to the case, Grumpy Cat Limited sued the owners of US coffee company Grenade for exceeding an agreement over the cat’s image. Grenade only had rights to use the cat’s image to sell an ice drink called “Grumppuccino”. Instead, they sold other Grumpy products by selling roasted coffee and Grumppucino t-shirts. Grumpy cat is famous, mostly online, for its permanent scowl caused by feline dwarfism and an under-bite that makes her lower jaw extend forward. Tardar Sauce’s career first took off in 2012 when the cat owner’s brother began posting memes with funny text captions. In 2013 a $150,000 deal was stuck by Grenade Beverage, owned by father and son Nick and Paul Sandford an ice coffee beverage featuring the Grumpy Cat. They were sued in 2015 for breach of contract and countersued that Grumpy Cat had failed to mention its brand enough on social media and tv. According to the complaint in court papers: “Ironically, while the world-famous feline Grumpy Cat and her valuable brand are most often invoked in a tongue-and-cheek fashion, the defendants’ despicable misconduct here has actually given Grumpy Cat and her owners something to be grumpy about.” Awww…poor Tardar Sauce! The California Federal Judge sided with Tabatha Bundesen, Grumpy Cat’s owner, ordering the payment of $710,000 in damages for copyright and trademark infringement, as well as a $1 nominal damage fee for breach of contract. According to Courthouse News, the kitty made an appearance in court but wasn’t present for the verdict. Are you thinking that this is all a bit over the top. Maybe not. Tarder Sauce is six-years old and has a company in her name, clothing, calendars, soft toys, coffee (obviously), a Christmas film, and also has 1.42 million followers on Twitter, 2.4 million on Instagram, and almost nine million likes on Facebook. Oh yes, she also has a book deal, and has had an appearance in a Friskies commercial. It’s all been enough for Bundesen to quit her waitress gig and manage her cat’s career full-time.  We see no reason to be grumpy about that!

    29 Jan
    29 Jan
  • The use of Eminent Domain to advance infrastructure is an age old practice.  In this blog, we talk about tunnels; which are, and have been, an integral part of transportation progress for centuries. Now there is talk of a high-speed rail that will go through a tunnel, similar to the Chunnel between the UK and France, that would take New Yorkers to Chicago in under five hours. Supporters of the plan say it will cost the federal government virtually nothing, experts say the deregulation will be handouts for Big Business. Many people (including us) are asking about the costs to taxpayers. ‘Cause hey, we live here and we pay taxes. According to President Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, no taxpayer/government funding is needed because it will be funded by the private sector–with companies that own the rights-of-way underground. According to Newsday, however, Cohn’s casual talk of “access and rights-of-way” and “solvable issues” masks a far-more-complicated strategy that involves more than just digging. Will eminent domain work in this situation? Many say no, commenting that it is an overreach that benefits private corporations at the expense of the public. As we all know, though, eminent domain has been used to benefit private development in the past (see United States Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London 545 U.S. 469 (2005)).  In addition, the use of eminent domain usually comes at a substantial cost to the taxpayers, as the government is obligated to pay just compensation to the owners of seized property; not to mention costs and fees for legal representation and appraisal services to determine the value of property rights deep under the ground. Let’s face it. Tunneling 70 feet down is probably not that easy. Here is an expert that agrees. “You’ve got to get 70 feet underground through vertical access tunnels,” said C. William Ibbs, head of the Construction Management program at University of California, Berkeley. “The question is where are you going to put the ports to get the tunneling machine and other utilities underground. Where you locate the ports may have to be on private land, you’re going to have to get owner permission. If it’s on government land, you’re going to have to apply for permits. Access is always a problem during tunneling work.” High-speed rail, which has been available for many years in Europe and Asia, was built at a relatively low cost. It was also discussed by the Obama administration, although they did not resort to the use of eminent domain. Without it, there is little federal officials can do.

    12 Jan
    12 Jan
  •   As we read through the real estate news on this snowy day (at least in the north east) we came across a very interesting news item about Red Hook in Brooklyn. Governor Cuomo is considering the idea of moving the Red Hook Container Terminal from Red Hook to another spot on the Brooklyn waterfront. Keep in mind that this area is important, because of its proximity to Manhattan and ability to serves as the last transportation route for oversized items. The Real Deal reports that it’s for real estate development with a hint of transportation, while the New York Daily News has a headline that’s focused on improving transportation to the area. We’re thinking that one hand feeds the other. No terminal without money, and no development without getting people in and out. In all fairness, at least in terms of fair blogging, The Real Deal reported that Cuomo didn’t specifically say that the site should be used for development, but he did say that it should be put to “more productive community use.” Do we hear the buzz of eminent domain here? Hmmmm…. Interestingly, construction giant AECOM proposed what some considered a crazy idea. To develop 45 million square feet of space and 45,000 new apartments in Red Hook, including development of the terminal site. That was in 2016. Apparently, money from the development could help pay for better public transportation to and from the area. Let’s face it, who is going to move to a place with no public transportation? The official word from the Governor’s office is that it’s too early to say, but Cuomo has called on the Port Authority to study moving the terminal to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, an inactive location that the city has been trying to put to better use. If the Red Hook Container Terminal (RHCT) is something of interest to you, check out the Red Hook Water Stories blog that gives lots of information about the area. Just in case you don’t have time, here’s a quick recap: The terminal is Port Authority property that runs from Atlantic Avenue to Wolcott Street in Brooklyn. According to the site, “The company RHCT LLC operates the containerport on 65 acres spread from Baltic Street to Bowne Street. This includes Piers 9A, 9B and 10, a sea of asphalt zoned for container stacks, plus several buildings (Crane Shop, Mechanics Shop, executive offices, and a long pier shed on pier 9B).” Check this out: There’s a “Heineken boat,” which brings beer and spirits from Europe. There’s also a Round the World service (aka: RTW) that brings in produce, like bananas and mangos. Stay tuned for more, as this area might be in the spotlight in 2018.  

    04 Jan
    04 Jan
  • Our Top 5 List of favorite “Sanchez & Polovetsky PLLC” moments in 2017: As we wrap up 2017, we decided to take the time to reflect on some of the exciting happenings at Sanchez & Polovetsky PLLC. Some of it had to do with eminent domain news, some of it with legal tidbits; but we had the most pride reflecting on some major eminent domain events at the firm: 1) We doubled the eminent domain award for our client in a NYC School Construction Authority Case. Our client was a Bronx building owner, and his property was taken via eminent domain by the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA). After a three and a half year period of pending Court proceedings, Sanchez & Polovetsky PLLC successfully negotiated a settlement with the SCA that was beneficial to our client. Although the terms of the settlement are confidential, we are able to confirm that the settlement amount was approximately double the initial eminent domain award offered by the SCA. 2) Jennifer Polovetsky and Philip Sanchez were named to the 2017 Super Lawyers List For The New York Metro Area. That’s 3 years in a row! Each year no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor. Although the honor constitutes peer recognition in the legal profession, the selection is quite mathematical and scientific. Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. 3) The New York Post extensively quoted Jennifer Polovetsky in an Eminent Domain story on December 12, 2017. Sanchez & Polovetsky PLLC was the only firm quoted in the piece that looked at how Mayor DeBlasio is looking to use eminent domain to buy buildings for the homeless. Here’s what was reported: Lawyer Jennifer Polovetsky, of Sanchez & Polovetsky, said New York has “one of the broadest eminent domain authorities in the country.” She said it would be very difficult for a landlord to take the city to court and prove that affordable housing is not “a public use.” “Affordable housing is definitely public use, in my legal opinion,” she said. Polovetsky added that building owners could eventually sue for damages, however. “Although the City will be required to pay them for their properties, the owners can always file a claim for additional compensation in court,” she explained. “In other words, the owners can claim that the compensation paid to them was not ‘just’ as required by the constitution, and can sue for more money.” 4) Our blog post got re-Tweeted by a pioneering woman who is the First Hasidic Jewish woman to be sworn in as NYC Civil Court Judge. In case you missed this post, Rachel Freier, the first Hasidic Jewish woman to be sworn in as New York City Civil Court judge, did not. In addition to being a judge, Freier is a mother of six and became a lawyer when she was 40 years old. And she reads our blog! Check out this story on January 2, 2017. 5) The Long Island Railroad Third Rail Expansion Project. Many of you will remember the summer of hell (it wasn’t too long ago, although with the weather we’ve been having it seems like another century).  We blogged about the $2 billion LIRR Expansion Project, which will add a third track to 9.8 miles along the congested Main Line of the LIRR between Floral Park and Hicksville, and eliminate all seven…

    30 Dec
    30 Dec
  • By Jennifer Polovetsky On Wednesday, December 20 th, 2017 · no Comments · In , , , ,

      WAIT! Before you read any further — this eminent domain blog post is extra special for us because our own Jennifer Polovetsky, partner at Sanchez & Polovetsky, PLLC was extensively quoted in a follow-up story in the New York Post. In a nutshell, and as set forth in further detail below, the City of New York plans to use eminent domain if landlords don’t want to sell their buildings. When asked by reporter Danika Fears for insight into how this process would work, and whether landlords would be able to fight the city in court, Jennifer Polovetsky commented that “New York has “one of the broadest eminent domain authorities in the country. She said it would be very difficult for a landlord to take the city to court and prove that affordable housing is not “a public use.” “Affordable housing is definitely public use, in my legal opinion,” she said. “They can certainly try [to fight it]. But if they came to me to fight, I would tell them not to bother.” Polovetsky added that building owners could eventually sue for damages, however. “Although the City will be required to pay them for their properties, the owners can always file a claim for additional compensation in court,” she explained. “In other words, the owners can claim that the compensation paid to them was not ‘just’ as required by the constitution, and can sue for more money.” If you are not familiar with the details of this most recent NYC eminent domain story, here goes: Mayor Bill De Blasio won the recent election handily, but ask any New Yorker and their biggest gripe about his leadership is the increasing rate of homelessness. Many of the homeless are families. For a long time, the City has placed these families into “Cluster” or “Scatter-site” housing. This means that decrepit, private apartments are used as housing. It’s expensive and as you can probably imagine, not very nice. The reason why it exists is that it helps the city meet its legal mandate to provide shelter to those who qualify. As mentioned above, there has been significant growth and reliance on cluster housing and it has become an issue of major importance for the Mayor. Some critics, well almost anyone, consider this issue to be the biggest failure during his time in office. According to a count overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in February 2017, an estimated 77,000 people were living in the city’s different shelter systems and on the streets. This is up significantly from when the mayor took office in January 2014, and there were an estimated 68,000 people were living in the city’s different shelter systems and on the streets. Mayor De Blasio has publicly stated that he took too long to recognized the crisis and come up with a plan. The homeless crisis is due to a variety of issues, most notably, rising rents, stagnant wages and the loss of affordable housing. Band-aid fixes, such as cluster sites, have done little to help and possibly more to hurt. The cluster program began in 2000 under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, with a few hundred apartments. Politically and practically, it can be seen as a good program. The clusters drew little community outcry when they opened because, unlike traditional shelters, they were not immediately visible. The apartments are tucked away in mostly private buildings, and homeless families have simply blended in with people who are not homeless. In fact, this is how Mayor De Blasio, an outspoken critic of clusters, became so dependent on them. When pressured not to…

    20 Dec
    20 Dec
  •   There is so much going on in the eminent domain world these days.  This time, in New Jersey. Recently we read that Palisades Park Borough officials are discussing acquisition of property by eminent domain for a new borough hall. If you are familiar with the area, it is the lot located on Fairview Street. Right now there is some activity going on, in the form of preliminary environmental testing of the land to be seized for the project, to ensure that there is no contamination of the land (this is New Jersey after all…sorry we are New Yorkers and are biased towards our home State). If there are any issues with the Phase I environmental testing, then soil samples would be taken to fully assess the condition. According to borough attorney John Schettino, the current property owner is in the process of obtaining an appraisal so that a price could be negotiated before the borough determines if they should forcibly acquire the property by eminent domain. We bet a lot hinders on the environmental study… Borough Administrator David Lorenzo commented that it a “very, very preliminary discussion” because the “piece of property came up and it was noted as being of interest.” Back in September, the council passed an ordinance making eminent domain a possible option to purchase the property. They also passed a bond in September for $5.2 million in case they need it to buy the land. This would be in order to construct a municipal building if and when decided upon. Other issues also need to be reviewed including traffic flow and emergency services. One issue that’s not on the table are tax increases. What is behind the eminent domain talks? Why is a new building needed? Lorenzo commented that the current building is getting older. “As the… town grows, we would not be responsible if we didn’t look into what the borough could be in the future. With a new building, we could include the police department, the fire department, the school board, the health department all at one location.” Another factor for the discussion, at this point, is that New Jersey Transit intends to build a light rail station in town near Fairview Street. It would have a parking lot to accommodate more than 200 cars from the railroad tracks to Grand Avenue. Mayor James Rotundo said that the state would be willing to work with Palisades to possibly build a parking structure in the area to help accommodate the cars. As with many projects, this could take months in planning and execution. Some residents are not happy about the plans and some say it’s all too ambitious.   They worry about the traffic and having all of the emergency services that would often encounter delays. At the very least, the old building needs improvements…but we’ll leave that for another post.

    07 Dec
    07 Dec
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