Eminent Domain Abuse in Haverstraw NY

A Letter to Eminent Domain Watch

By Bruce Kanner

My family is the owner of property in Haverstraw, NY. The building was a chair manufacturing facility until my father's retirement/death in 1995/1996. It was one of the largest employers in the Village of Haverstraw.

As a vacant industrial site we met with Mayor Bud Wassmer of Haverstraw in 1997 and asked him to consider housing on our site which is on the Hudson River. He told us that under no conditions would he consider housing on the waterfront in Haverstraw.

Despite several meetings we were deterred from submitting development plans. ubsequently the same Mayor had a change of heart and has now approved an urban revitalization plan of 850 housing units on the Hudson River which includes our site. Despite having our own Developer who was willing to pay us market value for our property, the Village entered into an agreement with Ginsburg Development to acquire all the parcels using eminent domain.

Ginsburg Development has offered us about 15% of the value that we could receive from a conventional open market sale. They have been named the only game in town by the Village through their agreement and our hands have been tied. No developer will acquire our property since it will be condemned and sold to Ginsburg Development.

Additionally, the owners of the property are saddled with the expenses until such time as Ginsburg Development decides to authorize the acquisition of our parcel which may not be for ten years. We anxiously await the Supreme
Court hearing this year.

The following is an article discussing this situation from the August 14 2003 issue of the Westchester, Rockland and Putnam NY Journal News.

With development, Haverstraw must wait and see

By Bob Baird

For the next five to 10 years, this is a test.

It's probably going to take that long to see if the promise of economic rebirth holds true as Westchester developer Martin Ginsburg builds 850 units of housing along Haverstraw's waterfront.

But, like it or not, the first gut check already is unfolding.

The Empire State Chair Factory site has emerged as a rallying point. How fairly and how quickly Ginsburg deals with the families who own the property might be seen as the first barometer of how he will operate. That can win over critics or confirm their fears.

During hearings on Ginsburg's plan, several people have spoken about Andrew Kanner, who worked his way from sweeping floors at the factory to become its owner. They worked there and remember the man they knew only as Andy. He was their boss, their benefactor and their friend until age and illness forced him to sell.

Now his and his partner's families own the building left behind after they sold and the new owners moved away.

The factory has been silent since 1995, but the partners still pay their taxes, though they've sought and been granted reductions. They say they wanted to build on the site — a peninsula jutting into the river — but were discouraged by village officials who told them they wouldn't entertain plans for housing there.

Because they are in the condemnation zone, the families say they can't sell to anyone but Ginsburg and they can't develop the property themselves, even though son Bruce Kanner carries plans in his briefcase.

Their situation has been a concern for village Trustee Angelo Cintron, who said Monday night he based at least one of his votes on reports that Ginsburg and Bruce Kanner were negotiating.

But in the public portion of the meeting — long after the votes to approve the waterfront revitalization and Ginsburg's role were cast — Bruce Kanner told the board there had been no negotiations, just a conversation about talking in the future.

A few minutes earlier, Haverstraw resident Bolivar Marchand spoke eloquently about Andrew Kanner and his factory.

Until the discussions over the future of the waterfront, he said, "I didn't realize how important the Empire State Chair Factory was to me."

The factory, which at its peak employed about 100, "was the blood that moved the heart of this village," he said.

He worked at the factory, he said, and made his first rent payment in Haverstraw with money earned there.

"It is the biggest hope in my life that the people running this will come to a fruitful decision for the Empire State Chair Factory — something good for Andy."

Bruce Kanner thanked Marchand for his kind words regarding his father, who died in 1996, but told the board he had no deal with Ginsburg.

Speaking after Kanner, resident Hector Torres turned to him and said, "You were speaking to the board, the developer and the people." But, he noted, Ginsburg and his staff were no longer in the room. "They came, got what they wanted and left," he said.

Outside after the meeting, Kanner said once again that he had a developer ready to move to build on the property, but that Mayor Francis "Bud" Wassmer only wanted Ginsburg.

As Wassmer left Village Hall, he and Kanner spoke briefly. "I applaud your vision for the village," Kanner told Wassmer. "I just think you could have more concern for us."

"I'm concerned about you," Wassmer said, as he moved to get into his car, "but my main concern is the entire village."

Kanner had expected to wait seven to 10 years for Ginsburg to deal with him, based on the schedule for building sections of the waterfront development.

As part of the measures approved Monday night, Ginsburg has three years to acquire the properties from the time the project's approvals are final and beyond appeal.

Residents like Marchand and Torres will be waiting and watching.

They'll watch for the village to develop amenities they once thought Ginsburg would pay for.

They and others will look out for the interests of bodega owners and others who fear they might be pushed out of a village they've called home if the development results in gentrification.

They'll watch to see if new residents bring prosperity for all of the village.

And they'll watch and wait to see how Ginsburg treats the little guys and the family of a man who once was their boss, benefactor and friend.

The Journal News: www.thejournalnews.com