Use of condemnation challenged in Haverstraw village: The (Westchester County NY) Journal-News, 1/21/06

By Ron X Gumucio

Owners of a medical complex [in Haverstraw NY] want to develop their building as they see fit, rather than let the village condemn it so a health-care facility and affordable housing can be built.

Lawyers for Pat Lynch and Ken Griffin, the owners of Graziosi Medical Complex, are challenging the village's plan to use eminent domain to acquire the West Broad Street building for the proposed public use. David MacCartney filed a petition of notice Wednesday in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

The village and Board of Trustees are named in the complaint and have 20 days to respond. MacCartney said he would then have three months to file legal arguments.

"It is our position that this is a taxpayer-funded tenant acquisition of private property," MacCartney said. "Basically we question why the village is condemning property when the private owners plan to fulfill the same public purpose. ... But they propose to do it with private funds."

Housing Opportunity for Growth, Advancement and Revitalization wants to build a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units on the second and third floors above a Hudson River Community Health facility. HOGAR, which rents space in the building, would keep its offices on the first floor.

Lynch said during a public hearing in July that he and his partner wanted to build affordable housing but would use private funds. His plan included a mix of retail stores and professional offices and six to eight affordable-housing rental units.

"We're confident that the court will decide in our favor because it's a public need," said HOGAR Executive Director Edna Rivera. "This is not a private developer gaining a profit. This is a clear need for the community."

Mayor Francis "Bud" Wassmer agreed.

"My opinion is that the village is on very firm ground," he said. "The owner's plan is not consistent with the village's and while this will slow the process, we will eventually be able to move forward."

Rivera said it would cost $4.39 million to expand and renovate the building. If the village successfully condemns it, HOGAR plans to finance most of the purchase using a Community Development Block Grant loan, as well as money from selling the units.

The Ginsburg Development Corp., which is building a $400 million waterfront redevelopment project, would contribute $180,000.

In the complaint, MacCartney states that the village "successfully scared off" all potential purchasers who had outbid HOGAR by saying it planned to acquire the building for a new village hall. This allowed HOGAR to again start negotiations with the former owner of the Graziosi building.

However, a few months after Lynch and Griffin bought the building, the village scheduled a public hearing for the proposed condemnation. The village's actions unfairly benefited HOGAR and would satisfy Ginsburg's requirement to provide affordable housing to the community, MacCartney said.

"It's an abuse of the condemnation powers and it's unconstitutional," MacCartney said.

Wassmer denied any wrongdoing by the village.

Wassmer said Ginsburg does need to satisfy some requirements, "but with or without him, we need affordable housing."

The Journal-News: www.journalnews.com