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  The illegal plan to lease the Historic Main School Building...
The Kenny Lawsuit...
The Village fails to put the Historic Main Building...
The foolish plan to “market”...
Why Are Trustees Pushing for Commercial Development?

Background Facts

The Kenny Lawsuit

In 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).

In 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.”

On 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.”

By 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 Department.

By 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.

On 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 exclusively private.”

The 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.”

The 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.

By 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 was acquired.”

The 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 Main Building...
The foolish plan to “market”...
Why Are The Trustees Pushing for Commercial Development?

 

Committee to Save St. Paul's / P.O. Box 7642 / Garden City, New York 11530-0731
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