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.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council (“NJDC”) and Marc R. Stanley filed a lawsuit against casino magnate Sheldon Adelson in the Southern District of New York. The case seeks damages from Mr. Adelson’s previous filing of a strategic case against public policy, or “SLAPP” suit, against the NJDC in 2012. After five years of litigation, two federal courts and the Supreme Court of Nevada all found that Adelson’s lawsuit against the NJDC should be dismissed because it was a SLAPP suit. Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute provides that those, like the NJDC, who prevail on a motion to dismiss a SLAPP suit may bring a new case of their own to recover the damages they suffered from that suit. The Plaintiffs are represented by ECBA partners Richard D. Emery and O. Andrew F. Wilson.
Articles describing the suit can be found here, here, and here.
On September 19, 2018, ECBA filed a Petition pursuant to Article 78 of the CPLR on behalf of New York City Council Member Rory I. Lancman, MTA Board Member David R. Jones, and the Community Service Society of New York (“CSSNY”) seeking an order to compel the New York City Police Department to comply with a New York City Law which requires it to post reports on its website regarding arrests made and civil summonses issued to individuals for fare evasion at each of the 472 subway stations in New York City.
After CSSNY issued a detailed report reflecting that the vast majority of arrests and summonses for subway fare evasion occur in poor African-American communities, Council Member Lancman introduced legislation requiring the Police Department to release quarterly reports detailing the number of arrests under New York Penal Law § 165.15 and summonses under MTA Rule of Conduct § 1050.4 that were issued for fare evasion at each subway station throughout New York City and to break down the data by various demographic criteria, such as the race, gender, and age range of each person arrested or summonsed. Council Member’s Lancman’s proposed bill was unanimously approved by the City Council and went into law as New York City Administrative Code § 14-172 in January 2018. Three required reporting periods have passed since the law’s enactment and the Police Department has brazenly refused to comply with its statutory obligation.
The Petitioners are represented by ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery and David Berman. A copy of the Petition is available here, and coverage of this lawsuit in the New York Times, New York Post and New York Daily News is available here, here, and here.
The National Trial Lawyers recently announced that ECBA Co-Founder Richard Emery was named to its prestigious Top 100. This invitation-only organization is composed of the premier civil plaintiff and criminal defense trial attorneys across the country. Each member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 is chosen for their demonstration of success, experience, influence and leadership.
You can learn more about the National Trial Lawyers organization here.
On May 29, 2018, ECBA filed a charge of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Patricia Gunning, a former Special Prosecutor/Inspector General at the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. In the charge, Ms. Gunning alleges that James Kiyonaga, who served as Acting Executive Director and Executive Deputy Director during her years at the Justice Center, engaged in a pattern of sexual discrimination and sexual favoritism, creating a hostile work environment. The charge alleges that when Ms. Gunning complained about the abuse, she was retaliated against, leading to her termination. Mr. Kiyonaga currently serves at Executive Deputy Commissioner of the Office of People with Developmental Disabilites.
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 Cooper Union has just announced a plan designed to return to free tuition. This plan was the result of a lawsuit filed by ECBA on behalf of the Committee to Save Cooper Union (CSCU), which challenged the school’s decision to charge tuition for the first time in its history.
CSCU is a coalition of current and prospective students, alumni, and faculty. The case argued that the school’s decision to charge tuition violated the terms of the trust established by Peter Cooper. As a result of the CSCU lawsuit, the Attorney General of the State of New York launched a confidential investigation into Cooper Union. The settlement reached between CSCU, the school, and the Attorney General imposed an independent financial monitor; established a Board committee made up of alumni, students, and faculty to develop a plan for the return to free tuition; required the school’s leadership to make a good faith effort to return to free; and expanded the presence of alumni, students, and faculty on the Board of Trustees. The recent plan announced by the school is the result of this settlement agreement.
Read more about the plan to return to free here and here.
This week, the New York Law Journal published a two-part column by ECBA Founder Richard Emery addressing the persistent issue of judges who use the power and prestige of their office to benefit themselves and others.
In part one, Emery discusses the problematic trend of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct’s decisions on this matter. In his review of recent cases, Emery demonstrates the Commissions’ troubling leniency in disciplining judges using their office for personal benefit. He argues that this inability to properly address and punish this misconduct not only sets a dangerous precedent for judges, but also damages public perceptions of judicial integrity.
In part two, Emery focuses on precedents set by the Court of Appeals in judicial discipline cases. Tracing precedents set in recent decades, Emery ends his review with an encouraging analysis of the Matter of Ayres, a case from this month that signals the Court of Appeals’ increasing lack of tolerance for judge misconduct that threatens the public’s confidence in the judiciary. The decision bolsters Emery’s view that despite the need for some constraints on the investigation and discipline of judges, these individuals must still be bound to the strictest standards of conduct.
Read part one of the column here, and part two of the column here.
On October 25, 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo, ECBA founder Richard Emery, and Barry Diller announced an agreement that would revive the construction of Diller Island, a performing arts center off of pier 55 in the Hudson River. In response to the new agreement, Richard Emery stated: ““On behalf of the plaintiffs City Club, Tom Fox and Rob Buchanan, the completion of Hudson River Park and the protection of the Estuary have always been of utmost importance to the entire environmental, civic and preservation community. Today’s historic commitment by Governor Cuomo to finish the Park and protect the Estuary is a great victory for park users and all New Yorkers. In that spirit, we will not litigate against Pier 55 and will work with the Governor to realize his visionary plan for completion of the Hudson River Park and for protection of the Hudson River.”
Read New York Times’ coverage of the agreement here, and New York Law Journal coverage here.