Haverstraw property owners dispute village's eminent domain agreement: The Westchester NY Journal News, 3/20/07

By Akiko Matsuda

The [Haverstraw NY] village's urban renewal plan may take an unexpected turn as property owners fight back to reclaim their rights to waterfront land targeted by eminent domain.

Owners of the former chair factory site in Haverstraw village have recently filed a complaint in state Supreme Court, claiming that the village and its contractors have been trespassing on their property.

The 10-acre waterfront property on Liberty Drive was designated as part of the village's urban renewal zone and was to be developed by Ginsburg Development Companies into luxury condominiums.

Under state eminent domain law, the village has the right to conduct environmental testing on the property even before acquiring it, so earlier this month, contractors worked at the site to examine soils, said Mayor Francis "Bud" Wassmer.

But Bruce Kanner, an owner of the property, said that based on the village's August 2003 eminent domain agreement, the village was supposed to acquire the property within three years. Because the village didn't do so, the agreement expired, and the village no longer had authority to enter the property, Kanner said.

"They have no right under the eminent domain law anymore because the agreement was expired," Kanner said. "They are beyond the period for which they could have gone on the property."

A hearing for the owners' complaint was scheduled for this morning at the state Supreme Court in Westchester before Justice John R. La Cava.

Kanner said he and other owners of the property were preparing to develop the property into condominiums.

"We're doing the same thing that the village wanted all along," Kanner said, adding that it was he who originally approached the village with waterfront housing plans back in 1998. "We could have completed it by now, but they decided to put us off because they wanted to give it to Ginsburg."

Kanner said he and other owners of the property had selected a developer for their project, which is to include about 175 condominium units.

"We plan to go ahead with developing the property as soon as we're permitted to do so," Kanner said, referring to the village planning board's approval process. The proposed site is part of Ginsburg's 800-unit riverfront housing complex that started with Harbors at Haverstraw.

Patrick Normoyle of Ginsburg Development Companies referred a reporter's request for comment to John Watkins, the village's special counsel for eminent domain.

Watkins disagreed with Kanner's interpretation of the eminent domain agreement, saying that as long as the village started condemnations in certain areas of the urban renewal zone, the village was authorized to continue the process.

"They are wrong," Watkins said of the assertions by Kanner and other owners of the property. "Statute permits the village to continue to go forward with the project, which was approved in 2003. We started condemnations of certain parcels, and we have the right to go forward with it."

Watkins said the village's authority will last for 10 years, or until 2013, because the project started in a timely manner.

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