New Rochelle eminent domain hearing set: Westchester (NY) Journal News, 7/9/06

By Ken Valenti

The city will [of New Rochelle NY] hold a hearing Tuesday on whether to use its eminent domain power to forcibly buy property that sits where developer Louis Cappelli plans LeCount Square, a three-tower project planned to fill a prominent downtown block.

Vincent D'Agnillo, one of two partners in the building's ownership, said they were upset to see the hearing scheduled. He said that he and his partner had come close to reaching a deal with Cappelli in recent weeks that would avoid eminent domain, and that Mayor Noam Bramson had assured them the city preferred not to use the power.

He said Cappelli's senior vice president, Joseph Apicella, had seemed to agree on a price for the building recently, only to report the next day that Cappelli would not accept the offer.

"We're very upset and we're very, very uncomfortable about how the negotiations went," D'Agnillo said.

Apicella disputed the account, saying no price had ever been set. He said he was making the owners an offer Friday.

"We've talked numbers back and forth, but we've never agreed to a number," he said.

Bramson was not available for comment Friday afternoon, said his senior adviser, Eileen Songer McCarthy. But the mayor and other city officials have made comments similar to what D'Agnillo reported. They have held that they would prefer to have the property owners reach a deal privately than to use eminent domain, but that Tuesday's hearing was a necessary step to keep the option open as a last resort. The hearing had been scheduled a month ago, but was postponed.

The through-block building carries the addresses 251 North Ave., an office building that once housed the former Standard-Star newspaper, and 50 LeCount Place, home of the nightclub Miami.

Last month, Cappelli resolved a dispute that stood in the way of the project when he reached an agreement with brothers Frank and Anthony Longhitano over a building they own on the block. As part of the resolution, the Longhitanos will take part in the development.

With that agreement, Cappelli has purchased or is in the process of buying most of the properties on the block, and is in talks with the U.S. Postal Service to move at least the trucking operations for the post office on the corner of Huguenot Street and North Avenue.

On Friday, Apicella was hopeful a deal could still be reached with the owners of 251 North Ave. and 50 LeCount Place.

"I can't believe they want to be the lone holdout in a project that's going to create hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue," he said.

The LeCount Square project would include three towers, one soaring some 400 feet, another rising more than 300 feet and a third to reach about 150 feet. The full block of development would include residences, office space, a hotel and stores, for a total of 890,000 square feet.

Westchester Journal News: http://www.thejournalnews.com