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.
The next time visitors come to visit you for a tour of New York City, the New York Wheel may be on their list of places to see – or not.
Let’s take a quick look at how it all began… The idea for a New York Wheel began in 2008, when Meir Laufer, CEO of Plaza Capital Management, a small Financial District-based developer, first visited the London Eye and had a dream to create something similar in New York. Laufer pithed the idea around and eventually caught the attention of investor Eric Kaufman, a developer and a former top broker at Colliers International.
Not everyone agreed that the project was a good idea, but an exclusive construction deal with Mammoet-Starneth, the engineering firm behind the London Eye, was achieved. This agreement enticed deep-pocketed investors, including those with EB-5 visas. According to the US Government website, the program is for entrepreneurs that are eligible to apply for a green card if they make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States, and plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. According to the Real Deal, the program is facing a major backlog in applications, resulting in up to 15-year wait times for visas.
By 2010 a site for the New York Wheel was searched for and with the help of NYC & Company, the city’s official marketing arm, as well as with the city’s Economic Development Corporation, Staten Island was finally agreed upon. In September 2012, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the plan to the public.
The project’s challenges are long, and here are just a few: The current estimated cost is over $600 million, which is more than twice the original figure. Vicious infighting has ripped apart the working dynamic of the development team. All of these challenges have resulted in public officials and government agencies suddenly going quiet when they had given support to the project for the past three years.
In May, the engineering company, Mammoet-Starneth, walked off the site after saying the soil could not support the structure. (Some reports say they were fired.) In December, the contractor filed for bankruptcy and in February, the developers agreed to pay $460,000 to help cover storage costs for some parts of the wheel.
In addition to a new management structure and the amount of money it will need to continue, the Wheel is one of many EB-5 projects across the U.S. mired in controversy that has left investors in limbo. Regional center Canam Enterprises has raised $206 million from 412 EB-5 investors for the project, according to the firm’s website.
So where does it all stand? A deadline was set for September 5th, and pushed back to September 11th, to see if the Wheel will keep rolling or if the project will have a permanent end. If it does end, it would be seen as one of the largest EB-5 failures. Maybe Hollywood will dive in and make a movie about it all.
We have exciting news to share with our blog readers! As this post’s headline suggests, the attorneys at Sanchez & Polovetsky have been named to the 2018 Super Lawyers list for the New York Metro Area. You can read all about it here.
What is even more exciting is that it’s the fourth year in a row that our attorneys have received this honor. Attorneys Philip A. Sanchez and Jennifer Polovetsky have been included in the Super Lawyers List for the NY Metro area every year since 2015.
Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the State are selected to receive this honor by the research team at Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business.
When asked what this honor means professionally and personally, Philip Sanchez, a partner at the firm, reflected for a moment and then said, “You can’t imagine the tremendous amount of stress a business owner, who has put their entire life’s work and effort into their business, undergoes when faced with eminent domain and the possibility of losing it all. We take great pride in helping these enterprises, which are often family owned and multi-generational. They often have the opportunity to improve with a fresh start at a new location. To be recognized for these efforts is deeply satisfying on both a professional and personal level.”
Super Lawyers 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. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.
Jennifer Polovetsky, the founding partner of the firm and a New York resident, said that “this honor is especially meaningful because the New York Metro Area is where we work and live. When we help local New York property owners and businesses, we are also seeking to improve the overall community serving our friends, neighbors, and businesses that we frequent. It’s a great feeling to be recognized for our efforts by our peers.”
The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law.
It’s back to school time and New York commuters are back in force with memories of their vacations. For those in Astoria, Queens, and Red Hook, Brooklyn (not the previously planned Sunset Park) they might also be thinking about when the much touted BQX streetcars will be built, shaving off valuable minutes (10-15 minutes to be specific) from their commute.
Infrastructure challenges and, therefore, budget issues have delayed plans for the BQX, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, which include a route between Brooklyn and Queens. It is estimated that in the first year, ridership is expected to reach 50,000 people daily, according to the administration. Overall, the 26-stop line is expected to serve around half a million people in waterfront communities.
Originally, the route was planned to run about 16 miles between Astoria and Sunset Park and cost approximately $2.5 billion. The City’s streetcar team then updated the plan and developed a shorter route to Gowanus that will cost $2.7 billion. That’s a per-mile increase of $247 million from $156 million.
Why the increased costs? In February 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced plans for the streetcar route. As other routes were examined, serious underground infrastructure issues were found and resulted in the increased budget estimates for the project. It probably also resulted in an extended planning time as the area would have to be more thoroughly studied. Crain’s put it best in their report: The infrastructure study helped to insulate the city from risk in the event it had to scrap the project, but it also delayed the project and drove up costs.
The project, which was scheduled to be completed in 2024, was supposed to be funded through property tax revenue as the land around the route increased in value. Those plans changed too. Now, the project is scheduled to be completed in 2029 and requires $1 billion from the federal government. Money set aside by the city for the BQX is being spent on other priorities, including affordable housing.
It sounds like de Blasio is still focused on the prize. “The Brooklyn-Queens waterfront has experienced incredible growth. Now it’s time for our transit system to catch up,” de Blasio said in a statement. “The BQX is one of the biggest, most ambitious projects in a generation. It will be a challenge, but New York City is taking it on.”
Plans are still underway for the city to examine the environmental impact of the project and kick off the public review process in 2020. Friends of the BQX, the tram’s independent booster group, support the plan. “This commitment to moving the BQX forward is a huge win for New Yorkers who have been cut off from transit for too long—including more than 40,000 NYCHA residents along the route,” the organization’s executive director, Jessica Schumer, said in a statement. “With the city embroiled in a transit crisis, the BQX will serve as an innovative model for how to build new mass transit sustainably and equitably.”
Of course, much of this depends on the situation in Washington, D.C. according to de Blasio. “We’re about to have two elections, 2018 and 2020, that could entirely remake the Congress and the White House, and then we would be having a very different conversation about infrastructure,” the mayor said. “In any competition for light-rail funding, this proposal would go to the front of the line instantaneously. … Looking around the country, it would cover the most people in the smallest amount of area.”
In addition to timing, costs, and infrastructure issues, there seems to be a few additional challenges. First, if the project starts in 2020, de Blasio has only one year left in office and a successor might not pursue the BQX project. The other issue is that de Blasio has refused to say whether he has discussed the possibility of federal funding with Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.
Schumer has been struggling to secure funding from the Trump administration to construct a new Amtrak tunnel under the Hudson River and to refurbish the atrophied existing conduit.
In a way, this project is running like much of the transit system – late. But in this case it hasn’t even left the station. And the burning question remains…will any property owners or businesses be displaced by eminent domain in order to make this happen? Stay tuned.