December, 1997, the contemplated lease of the Historic Main Building
and several surrounding acres of land to Care Matrix was challenged
by four Village Taxpayers in a lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court,
Nassau County (Kenny et al v. The Board of Trustees, Index #34717/97).
the first cause of action, the plaintiffs alleged, inter alia, that
“On information and belief, the Village Board of Trustees
represented to the Cathedral, to its residents and taxpayers,
and to the Court in the condemnation proceeding, that it was seeking
to acquire the entire St. Paul’s School property solely
for public recreational uses.
In reliance upon said representations, the Cathedral, Village
residents, and the Supreme Court approved the acquisition of the
entire St. Paul’s School property by the Village, and Village
residents and taxpayers agreed to be liable for a bond indebtedness
in an amount exceeding $8,000,000.
By reason of the foregoing, and the subsequent public uses to
which the property was dedicated, the entire St. Paul’s
School property, by law, is held and owned by the Village in trust
for the public, and no part of it may be alienated or leased to
a private, commercial developer without the express prior approval
of the New York State Legislature.”
Plaintiffs further alleged, inter alia, that
“On information and belief, the Village has not sought or
obtained the approval of the New York State Legislature, and has
no plans to do so.
On information and belief, the contemplated lease of the Main
School Building and 10 surrounding acres to Care Matrix, for a
purpose other than for public use, would be illegal and would
cause irreparable harm to the public interest and general welfare
by precluding any public use thereof during the next 50 years.”
the basis of these allegations, the plaintiffs asked the Court to
“accordingly declare, pursuant to General Municipal Law §
51, that the proposed lease of the Main School Building at St. Paul’s
and 10 surrounding acres to Care Matrix would be an illegal alienation
of public trust property, and that the Village Board be permanently
enjoined from leasing any part of the former St. Paul’s School
property to Care Matrix or any other private commercial entity in
the absence of approval by the New York State Legislature.”
order dated November 25, 1998, the Supreme Court denied the Village’s
motion to dismiss the Kenny lawsuit.
The Village appealed the denial to the Appellate Division, Second
order dated March 22, 1999 (261 AD2d 367), the Appellate Division
rejected the Village’s appeal.
A trial of the Kenny lawsuit was held before the Supreme Court,
Nassau County, in June, 2000.
March 13, 2001, Justice Burke of the Supreme Court issued a lengthy
memorandum decision upholding the plaintiff’s claim that the
entire St. Paul’s property was, indeed, held in public trust.
In the Court’s opinion, the Village’s planned lease
of the Main Building and its surrounding acreage would be an illegal
diversion of public trust property “to a possession or use
Court’s opinion emphasized: “No part of the property
may be sold or leased to a private, profit-making commercial developer
even in circumstances where, as here, it was determined by the Board
of Trustees that the costs of adapting the main structure to a Village
Hall or other municipal use were or are prohibitive.”
Court accordingly signed a Judgment on May 2, 2001, which enjoined
the Village “permanently” from entering into “any
sale or leasing agreement with a private commercial entity…without
the approval thereof by the New York State Legislature.” The
Village again took an appeal to the Appellate Division, Second Department,
contesting the Supreme Court’s ruling and Judgment.
order dated December 31, 2001 (289 AD2d 534), the Appellate Division
again rejected the Village’s contentions, and affirmed the
Supreme Court’s Judgment and Permanent Injunction. The Appellate
Division’s decision states, in pertinent part: “It has
long been the rule that a municipality, without specific legislative
sanction, may not permit property acquired or held by it for public
use to be wholly or partly diverted to a possession or use exclusively
private …The trial court … properly found that the proposed
use … for a privately operated assisted living facility …
[would be] inconsistent with the public purposes for which the property
Village thereupon filed a motion in the Court for Appeals seeking
leave to appeal. The motion was denied on June 13, 2002.
The illegal plan
to lease the Historic Main School Building...
The Kenny Lawsuit...
The Village fails to put the Historic
The foolish plan to “market”...
Are The Trustees Pushing for Commercial Development?