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  • By Jennifer Polovetsky On Tuesday, August 07 th, 2018 · no Comments · In , , , ,

    Eminent Domain Surprise?  You bet.  We’ve got the story here:  two sisters, Fran Gandarillas and Angela Camarda, have a property in Islandia, Long Island, that is up to date on its taxes and is under contract to be sold.  So you can imagine their surprise when a Newsday reporter called them asking them about the Islandia village’s plans to take the property by eminent domain to build a new public works and truck yard facility. “We know nothing further unfortunately,” Gandarillas, told the Newsday reporter. “We thought it was some kind of prank.” They questioned how the village could take their property, citing that it is up to date on taxes and is under contract to be sold. They found out about the plan a day before a public hearing was initially scheduled. According to Islandia Village officials, they are proposing to seize the 1.7-acre residential property on Old Nichols Road by eminent domain. When asked by the reporter, officials did not immediately say how they sought to notify the property owners. Officials said they commenced eminent domain proceedings against a nearby property two years ago and stopped the effort because of an unrelated issue of illegal action, which they did not immediately specify. The village has outgrown its current public works yard behind village hall, and officials have been looking for a property to store equipment for several years, Village Attorney Joseph W. Prokop said, noting a preference for a location on the north side of the Long Island Expressway.  Prokop gave a pretty standard answer when asked about the proceedings, “This would allow the village to better service roadways and provide other services in this part of the village.” According to the reports, municipalities have to notify property owners within 10 to 30 days of a public hearing either in person or by certified mail, but an “inadvertent failure to notify” them may not affect the validity of municipalities’ claim on the property, according to state law. The sisters’ property has been used until now as a day care center called “The Nursery School, Too,” according to state records.  The property is in a residential area that is surrounded by homes. There is also a nonprofit equestrian center serving people with special needs. If the Islandia Village were to successfully take the property, they would have to pay fair market value. According to records attained by the Islip Town Assessor’s office, that would be approximately $745,000. Village spokesman Hank Russell said a public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 7, despite a public notice listing it for July 31 — a discrepancy he attributed to an error. The hearing will be at 6 p.m. at village hall.

    07 Aug
    07 Aug
  •   We had a busy week last week and a proud one too! (Drum roll, please!) Sanchez & Polovetsky is pleased to announce that is has successfully tripled the eminent domain award initially offered to its client, an East Harlem Auto Repair Shop. For all of those legal scholars and nerds who want the gritty details, you can look it up here: New York County Supreme Court Master Index No. 453233/2015 and Sub-Index No. 450082/2018 (Shlomo, J.) For the rest of us who what just the exciting details, here goes:  Sanchez & Polovetsky filed a claim on behalf of its client, East Side Auto, Inc., in November of 2017.  After months of intense negotiations and pre-trial court conferences, the firm was able to obtain a favorable settlement on behalf of the East Harlem Auto Repair Shop on July 10, 2018, less than a year after filing an eminent domain claim for additional compensation in Court. Although the terms of the settlement are confidential, attorneys at the firm have confirmed that the settlement was in an amount that was approximately three (3) times the amount of the initial eminent domain award offered to its client. If you have followed our press releases and media coverage on the firm, you will note that Sanchez & Polovetsky places great importance on helping small businesses. Often those small businesses are run by families and without a positive outcome, their lives would be completely changed for the worse, for a very long time, maybe even forever. This blog post is a good time to note that often eminent domain proceedings take a small business owner by surprise. They often don’t know what to do and might even feel pressured to sign papers that are not necessarily in their best interest.  It doesn’t have to be that way, especially if the right help is found as soon as the notice is received.  In fact, there have been cases won by Sanchez & Polovetsky that allowed the business to relocate to a bigger and better facility, allowing the business to flourish instead of fail. “Small businesses are an essential part of the local and national economy. Being able to help this client thrive despite eminent domain proceedings is truly gratifying. We are thrilled about the award and the results we were able to achieve,” says Jennifer Polovetsky, a partner at Sanchez & Polovetsky. “It is extremely rewarding to help a small business that employs members of the local community.  This is yet another example of how a business can fight and win despite eminent domain proceedings,” says Philip Sanchez, a partner at Sanchez & Polovetsky.

    30 Jul
    30 Jul
  •   Eminent domain cases are happening every day, in cities that are both large and small.  Over the past few weeks we’ve taken a look at what is going in in New York City and the surrounding suburbs; and today we are going to be discussing a case that recently hit the press.  In Utica, New York, the nonprofit Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) wants to build a new $480 million hospital; and it is negotiating with property owners in the downtown area who have not yet sold their land. The official word is that no one wants to take the properties through the use of eminent domain, but if it is necessary, MVHS will do it.  As is usually the case, some of the property owners are trying to stop the project and are looking for ways to stop the proceedings from starting. One such example is a row house at 442 Lafayette Street.  It is there that a group of residents who are opposed to the MVHS hospital have started the “No Hospital Downtown” effort to make its final stand. Brett Truett, one of the founders of the project’s opposition group, actually bought a property that lies within the footprint of the hospital to fight his property’s acquisition in court. Legal scholars and those interested in eminent domain are probably thinking if a private entity can use eminent domain to take another private property in New York State.  Jim Brock, the other founder of the No Hospital Downtown group, thinks not. Thomas Merrill, a property law scholar at Columbia Law School disagrees.  Merrill said, “There’s no requirement that the person that’s going to get the property after the condemnation is completed has to be public. New York does not draw that line at all. In fact, there’s some language in the statute that encourages the use of private enterprise in these projects.” Technically, in New York, property can be taken be for a “civic project” and that can be private or public. A “civic project” is defined as something intended for an educational, cultural, recreational, community, municipal, public service or other civic purpose.  Both MVHS and local government officials have said the new hospital meets that definition because it provides access to quality health care for the region.  They also say that the new project will assists with economic development in downtown Utica. Scott Perra, MVHS’ president and CEO said, “the question is how much do we pay for the properties. I think there’s some misunderstanding from people about what eminent domain actually is. It’s not people going to court arguing we ought to move or we don’t think the hospital should be built downtown at that point in time. Those decisions have already been made. So it’s really a discussion over what’s the fair value of the property.” Merrill, the Columbia law school professor notes that “health care” and “economic development” are technically not listed under the state’s definition of a civic project. Therefore, the property owners could challenge it in court. But, he says, it’s unlikely that they would win based on recent rulings on eminent domain. “At least in New York, the tradition has been that the courts have been very deferential to the arguments that these are public uses, so it would be a very long shot that they would prevail in the New York courts,” he said. Although New York state law is very government friendly when it comes to eminent domain (almost everything is considered public use), property owners and business tenants have the right to go to court to contest the amount of…

    21 Jul
    21 Jul
  • Being that it’s Fourth of July week and lots of people are thinking about the beach and relaxation (and of course, eminent domain!), we thought that it would be a good idea to dedicate a post to a summer weekend. This idea makes us think of cute beach towns, including Shelter Island. For those of you who don’t know, Shelter Island is a town and island at the eastern end of Long Island, New York. It is part of Suffolk County, although technically since it is an island, it is separated from the rest of the county by water. Even on small islands, such as Shelter Island, there can be chatter of eminent domain.  In this case, it is talk of bike lanes.  Specific to the issue on Shelter Island is Route 114, a stretch of state road that goes from North to South.  It’s been the site of some close-call accidents and a source of anxiety for residents. Designated by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) as a “State Bike Route” (from its start in Greenport and end in East Hampton), it gets an upgrade in definition when it reaches North Haven to Sag Harbor when there are “bike lanes” dedicated solely for bicycles. Three years ago, the state worked on several improvements along the Shelter Island leg of the road. This was meant specifically for bicycle traffic, and has included cleaning of pavement surfaces, re-striping, replacement of signage, weeding and removal of plants encroaching on the shoulder. Sounds good, right? Yes, except that a level of maintenance is required.  According to the DOT, drainage grates would undergo inspections to find out which ones need to be reset or replaced with bicycle-friendly grates. As you can probably guess, that was never done. Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) didn’t have too many answers when asked questions about the issue by local reporters.  He did provide details for three solutions that would cost between $13 million and $200,000.  The more expensive options include a plan for full bike lanes the length of Route 114, including from Duval Avenue to the traffic circle in the Center, in front of the school, and West Neck Road to Manwaring Road.  In addition, Thiele noted that option would involve eminent domain where property owners along Route 114 would most likely resist giving up their land to the state for the project. The option Thiele is in favor of plans for bike lanes on 30 percent of the state road and cost $2 million.  The remaining 70 percent would be shared lanes — or “sharrows” — between vehicles and bicycles and would have symbols painted on the road indicating they must be shared. What’s the status? Nothing good for bikers this season.  Thiele is in talks with local Supervisor Gary Gerth and Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams.  He will also have a brief with the rest of the Town Board “soon” on the state’s proposals. Then he will take it back to the state when the Assembly reconvenes — in January.

    07 Jul
    07 Jul
  • Recently, we blogged about State lawmakers approving the AirTrain legislation on the final day of the session. Governor Cuomo is looking to make a mark on infrastructure, and transportation to LaGuardia Airport is on the top of his list.  The proposed legislation allows the state to acquire public land along the Grand Central Parkway and the No. 7 line without using eminent domain to take private property. Although there has been significant criticism of the plan, Governor Cuomo has announced that the plans will continue.  Let’s take a moment to talk about the current plans.  The proposal is to create an AirTrain that would offer a 30-minute trip to La Guardia from Midtown Manhattan.  Mark your calendar for the 2022 opening. Sounds good so far, right? Actually, not so much. Imagine you are on the LIRR or subway and you watch the airport out of your window as you and the train go by. Travelers would first have to go past the airport and go east to Citi Field where the Mets play. Then travelers would have to catch the AirTrain and go back a bit to get to the airport. The idea is that this circuitous route would actually take only 30 minutes.  But there is a catch here too.  That amount of time is based on no waiting for trains. While it might only take 16 minutes to travel on the Long Island Rail Road from Manhattan to the Willets Point station in Queens, the reality is that travelers would have to wait a while for the trains to come.  Then it’s another six minutes on the AirTrain from Willets Point to the airport. Plan B, which is really not such a great alternative, is to take the No. 7 subway line to the Mets-Willets Point station to catch the AirTrain.  If you’ve ever taken the No. 7 train before you know local trains make a lot of stops. Plus, it’s always so crowded there’s hardly room for luggage. The cost of the AirTrain has nearly tripled, from $450 million when Mr. Cuomo proposed the idea in 2015. The two other major airports in the region, Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, both have AirTrains. Although, let’s face it, Newark’s is totally unreliable and you need certainty when trying to catch a flight. The current methods of getting to LaGuardia airport are quite miserable.  Travelers need to take a taxi or Uber using highways that are notorious for heavy traffic.   Talks of trains to the airport have been going on for years, but no elected have been able to get past the daunting logistics and costs. We’ll have to wait and see…just like on the train platform!

    28 Jun
    28 Jun
  • By Jennifer Polovetsky On Friday, June 22 nd, 2018 · no Comments · In , , ,

      For more than 20-years, a dusty, trash-strewn 4.2-acre lot at Vermont and Manchester in South Los Angeles has been vacant. Officials would like to see the lot turned into a transportation boarding school with vocational and college-prep curriculum that is free to students. The hope is that once students finish the programs, they could find work with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or local contractors after graduation. Some would also go on to college to study engineering, architecture or urban planning. The lot has been vacant since the 1992 Los Angeles riots.  Some might remember the swap meet was torched and burned to the ground. All the time and discussions that has passed since then, has not resulted in an agreed upon plan for the area. If there has been decades of disagreements, then now is no different.  There is resistance from some South L.A. residents who say the neighborhood needs more sit-down restaurants, grocery stores and retail space.  Many residents are complaining and feel that the county should not build a new school in South L.A. when struggling high schools nearby would welcome the funding and support. The big difference now is that the county of Los Angeles won ownership of the property in April 2018. Although still in the planning stages, proposals for the school also include apartments, a job training center, a plaza for transit riders on Vermont, and 50,000 square feet of retail space, including a grocery store. How does all get paid for? The Board of Supervisors will vote on an exclusive negotiating agreement with the nonprofit SEED Foundation.  The organization runs public boarding schools, to develop more detailed plans for the L.A. school’s construction and operation. The foundation would also apply for a charter with the Los Angeles County Office of Education.  There is also hope that private companies will send employees to guest lecture, help shape the curriculum and give money to the school. That would have to cover the school’s annual operating subsidy from Los Angeles County of about $10 million, or about $25,000 per student. If the school plans move ahead, it is estimated that approximately 400 high school students would attend. The students would live on campus during the week and returning home on weekends. The goal is to fill an employment gap that is the result of at least 12 new rail lines being built across Los Angeles in the next 40 years.  This means that there will be lots of vacant positions in construction and engineering. Currently, Metro hires about 2,200 people per year. Some positions, such as track inspectors and engineers, have continuous recruiting efforts. In addition, about 40% of Metro’s 11,000 employees are eligible for retirement today. New York City has a Transit Tech High School, which runs like a traditional public school. Students take English, math and other standard classes, but also learn about computer circuitry, hydraulics and electronic troubleshooting. In L.A., officials hope to attract students from across the county who have been homeless, in foster care, or involved in the criminal justice system.  Outreach for advice has been happening with LACOE, the Los Angeles Unified School District, community colleges and social service agencies. While there are critics to the program and this approach, there are success stories. San Pasqual Academy is a year-round boarding school in Escondido for teenagers in the foster care system.  According to county data 77% of students graduated in the 2016 school year.  There are also success stories in Miami and Washington, DC. Pedro Noguera, a professor of education at UCLA said about the concept, “A lot of times, you don’t see high-quality…

    22 Jun
    22 Jun
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