On April 18, 2019, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer filed an action to ensure that NYCHA complies with state and local law requiring full community input into its plans to redevelop the Holmes Towers public housing project on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. NYCHA plans to allow a private developer to construct a mixed-income 50-story tower in the middle of the Holmes Towers, obliterating a central playground and large areas of open space that currently occupy the land (shown below) and violating the neighborhood zoning requirements that protect access to light and air. The suit alleges that the NYCHA and the Respondents have acted unlawfully by circumventing the important role of the Borough President and the community in reviewing land use proposals in Manhattan. Through this lawsuit, Borough President Brewer seeks to ensure that the important goal of generating much-needed capital for public housing revitalization does not trump the public and City elected leaders’ roles in decision-making about significant development projects in their community.
The Borough President is represented by ECBA attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Ashok Chandran. The petition and brief can be found here and here, respectively. Coverage of the case filling can be found here and here.
On March 14, 2019, Justice W. Franc Perry ruled in favor of firm clients, the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, in their ongoing action to halt the unlawful construction of a 668-foot residential mega-tower on a gerrymandered zoning lot at 200 Amsterdam Avenue, previously slated to be the tallest building on the Upper West Side. The Court held that the building permit rested on an unreasonable interpretation of the Zoning Resolution that was inconsistent with a plain reading of the statute, and remanded the building permit back to the BSA for further review consistent with the Court’s order. The Court also rejected the argument of the developer, Amsterdam Avenue Redevelopment Associates LLC, that simply because DOB had issued the permit in the first place, it was therefore entitled to complete the building. “Vested rights,” the Court wrote, “cannot be acquired by relying on an invalid permit.”
Read the decision here.
Read the coverage of the win here and here.
MAS and CFESD were represented in the proceeding by ECBA lawyers Katherine Rosenfeld, Richard D. Emery, and Ashok Chandran, and co-counsel Charles Weinstock, Esq.
On December 6, 2018, ECBA filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a pregnant woman who was shackled by the NYPD for approximately thirty hours after she was arrested in the Bronx for misdemeanor. The woman, who is known as Jane Doe in this suit, was repeatedly restrained by numerous different NYPD officers even as she went into labor and was taken to Montefiore Medical Center in the early morning of February 8, 2018. She was forced to labor in shackles, in extreme pain. Although officers partially removed the shackles minutes before Jane Doe gave birth, they reapplied them shortly after. Jane Doe was forced to welcome her baby into the world with her arm chained to her hospital bed.
The shackling of pregnant women is a barbaric and degrading practice. It is universally denounced by medical and correctional experts as dangerous and unnecessary. It has been illegal in New York for years. Doctors at the hospital reportedly warned the officers that their use of shackles posed serious health risks to Jane Doe and her child, and violated the law. The officers ignored these warnings, claiming that the Patrol Guide required the use of shackles and superseded any law to the contrary.
Through her suit, Jane Doe seeks to end the NYPD’s use of this draconian and illegal practice, and ensure that no pregnant woman is shackled by the NYPD again.
Jane Doe is represented by ECBA attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Ashok Chandran. The complaint can be found here. Press coverage by the New York Times can be found here.
ECBA has filed a “friend of the court” brief in the federal appeals court in Manhattan urging the full court to reconsider a recent decision that affects how much time victims of police misconduct have to file civil rights claims in court. The amici curiae brief was filed on behalf of a coalition of organizations that defend indigent people accused of crimes, work to correct wrongful convictions, and protect civil rights. It argues that when someone alleges that police fabricated evidence used to charge him with a crime, the statute of limitations on his civil claim should not start running until the criminal case against him is resolved in his favor. As the brief explains, the recent decision, if not corrected by the full court, could hurt criminal defendants’ ability to defend themselves against charges and lead to the dismissal of valid civil rights claims for technical reasons, even if the plaintiff is the victim of egregious misconduct or has served years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
The groups represented by ECBA in the case are the American Civil Liberties Union, Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Center for Appellate Litigation, Connecticut Innocence Project, The Innocence Project, The Legal Aid Society, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, New York County Defender Services, New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Office of the Appellate Defender, and Vermont Office of the Defender General. ECBA attorneys Sam Shapiro, David Lebowitz, Doug Lieb and Ashok Chandran worked on the brief.
On July 18, 2018, ECBA filed a federal lawsuit against the City of New York and others on behalf of Stanley “Skip” Karol, a lifelong Brooklyn resident, who uses the Airbnb platform to rent out part of his family home. The suit alleges that, in violation of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause, the City retaliated against Mr. Karol for his remarks criticizing City officials and policy at a public hearing before the New York City Council on June 26, 2018. Concerned that the legislation pending before the Council would put him in the same category as operators of illegal hotels, Mr. Karol exercised his First Amendment rights by participating in a public hearing on the bill. Days later, City enforcement officials appeared at Mr. Karol’s two-family home in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and issued him four summonses carrying fines of tens of thousands of dollars. The complaint alleges that the enforcement effort aimed at Mr. Karol was retaliatory, and the summonses issued to Mr. Karol are baseless. “People shouldn’t have to worry that when they go home, there’s going to be a knock on the door just because they decided to speak up against the government,” ECBA partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr. told the press. The case was widely covered and the subject of a New York Post editorial.
Mr. Karol is represented by ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Debra Greenberger, and Ashok Chandran. A copy of the complaint can be found here, and additional press coverage of the case can be found here, here, and here.
On April 25, 2018, ECBA filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and the Municipal Art Society of New York seeking to halt the unlawful construction of a 668-foot residential mega-tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue which, if completed, would be grossly out-of-character with the neighborhood and cast long shadows. The lawsuit alleges that the zoning lot upon which the mega-tower would sit—the only justification for the tower’s height—was cobbled together using partial tax lots, in violation of the New York City Zoning Resolution.
On May 14, 2018, plaintiffs secured their first legal victory in the case, obtaining a Stipulation and Order from the Court preventing the developer from using its continued construction efforts to argue that its rights have “vested” – that is, that construction has progressed to the point that the project can no longer be halted. The developer continues work now at its own peril while the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals decides the pending administrative appeal.
The plaintiffs are represented by ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery, Katherine Rosenfeld, and Ashok Chandran. A copy of the complaint is available here, and Politico’s coverage of the dispute can be found here.
A federal district judge has ordered the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP to disclose documents in response to an ECBA client’s request to obtain discovery in aid of foreign proceedings under 28 U.S.C. s. 1782. The subpoena sought documents for use in open and contemplated proceedings in the British Virgin Islands concerning a dispute over the ownership and management of Future Media Architects, Inc. The decision further clarifies that a law firm may be required to produce documents in aid of a foreign proceeding that involves one of its clients, if discovery is not available from that client directly. The applicant was represented by ECBA attorneys O. Andrew F. Wilson and Ashok Chandran.
A full copy of the decision can be found here.