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A.Thomas Levin Quoted in The Island Now, "Developers Seek Dismissal in Suit"

Feb 27, 2014Local Government and Land UseProfessional Responsibility

Media Source: The Island Now


Attorneys for the Village of North Hills and two developers with construction projects planned in the village filed motions in Nassau County Supreme Court last Thursday to seek dismissal of a lawsuit brought by an East Hills environmental activist who is trying to halt the projects to preserve a forested area along the Long Island Expressway.

North Hills village attorney Thomas Levin said he and attorneys representing developers RXR Realty and X-Cell III Realty filed papers to dismiss the suit from East Hills environmental activist Richard Brummel with Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Michele Woodard on Feb. 20

Levin said a decision is expected within 60 days but he questioned the impact of the ruling as work has already begun on RXR’s proposed 244-condominium project.

“The construction’s going ahead. They cleared the property, which kind of makes this academic,” Levin said.

Woodard had lifted a temporary restraining order last month and denied a request by Brummel for a preliminary injunction against developers of the two projects sought by Brummel.

Brummel had filed a petition to get the temporary restraining order from Nassau Supreme Court Judge Dana Winslow on Jan. 4.

In their most recent filing, Levin said he and the other attorneys repeated arguments they presented to Woodard on Jan. 14, that Brummel lacks standing in the lawsuit since he doesn’t live near the 17-acre site where RXR, operating as Midtown North Hills LLC, is building the condominium complex on Grace Forest along the northern access road of the Long Island Expressway in North Hills. X-Cell III Realty plans to build two 92,500 square foot office complexes near the condo complex.

“He has no standing. He sustains no harm. All of his claims are too late,” Levin said.

He said the village also argued that it had complied with all the applicable environmental review requirements for both projects. Brummel called for a new environmental impact study in public hearings on the RXR project.

In his Feb. 20 filing with Woodard, Brummel said he has standing in the case because he “uses and enjoys the property.” He also said state law permits a person to be on land that is “unimproved or apparently unused” and is not fenced in.

Brummel has said 16 protected state species live in the forest, including the Eastern box turtle, the Eastern hognose snake, the Eastern spadefoot toad, the Red-header woodpecker, the hoary bat, and the Whip-poor-will.

The Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court recently denied Brummel’s motion to overturn Woodard’s decision to lift the temporary restraining order and deny his request for a preliminary injunction.

RXR Realty, which touts itself as the leading real estate owner, manager and developer in the tri-state region on its website, has sought to develop the North Hills property since an affiliate bought the previous owner, North Hills LLC, in 2007.

RXR paid the Village of North Hills $21 million in 2007 in lieu of amenities on the condominium project.

Natiss said the economic downturn had stalled the RXR plan that the village originally approved for construction.

RXR is currently proceeding after receiving village support for a payment in lieu of taxes proposal being considered by the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency on 60 of the first 124 units that RXR intends to build in the project’s first phase. The 60 units will initially be leased.

Natiss had adamantly opposed a 20-year PILOT with $4.6 million in property tax breaks that RXR had previously proposed.

At a recent IDA hearing, Natiss said that although he was still “philosophically opposed” to IDA tax breaks on rental property, he felt he had to “compromise” his principles “so they can get this built.”

RXR recently received IDA approval for $3.6 million in tax breaks on sales taxes and mortgage tax tied to the 60 units to be leased.

Administrators representing the Herricks and Great Neck school districts, who opposed previous PILOTs for RXR and a second development in North Hills, have said they are comfortable with the compromise on the latest PILOT after the recent IDA hearing.

The RXR property lies in the Great Neck School District.