WPCNR Milkman’s Matinee News Delivery. By John F. Bailey. September 5, 2002: Concerned Citizens for Open Space Wednesday evening issued a statement confirming they had filed an Article 78 suit in New York State Supreme Court asking that the August 5 approval by the Common Council of the proton accelerator/biomedical research facility on Site Eight of the New York Presbyterian Hospital Property be reversed. They ask the matter be sent back to the Common Council for a “complete and procedurally correct review” with the Common Council, not the court, retaining final decision-making authority over the hospital proposal.
SHOT ACROSS THE BOWS: The Concerned Citizens for Open Space News Release announcing their legal positions in their Article 78 lawsuit filed yesterday against the City to overturn the Council approval of the New York Presbyterian Hospital proton accelerator/biotech research complex approved August 5.
Photo by WPCNR
The news release discussed the reasons behind the suit that was served on the City of White Plains Wednesday afternoon, reciting objections to the city’s decision based on four matters.
The statement says that the Article 78 petition alleges that the Council approval “is in violation of local zoning ordinances and, in addition, does not fully meet the legal requirements of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).”
The action, the statement continues, “petitions the Supreme Court to review the approval process and determine its procedural legitimacy and is the natural extension of our opposition to what we believe is a violation of developmental restrictions.”
It cites the following legal objections in an accompanying fact sheet:
• The suit rejects the Common Council acceptance of the 394,000 square foot building as an “ancillary (secondary) use.”
• It alleges that the Council failed to consider the building in the context of development of all of the property by not requiring a complete master plan.
• The suit maintains that the Council’s approval of the building as a Special Use permit rather than a zoning change was incorrect procedure.
• And, finally that the council “failed to guarantee meaningful open space planning for the city as intended by zoning,” saying “proper review of a “master plan for the property would have ensured this.
“Majority” Believes Zoning Laws Should be Defended.
The News Release remarks that “CCOS, along with a majority of White Plains residents, believes the integrity of White Plains’ zoning ordinances must be defended. We also believe it is the responsibility of elected officials of White Plains to protect all its citizens from further deterioration of our already badly compromised environment.”
Barbara Benjamin, contacted by WPCNR, asked what the release meant by the words “along with a majority of White Plains residents.”
Definition of “Majority”
Benjamin said it is “a majority of people who know anything about it (the project).” She did not give a figure of persons specifically opposed to the project.
Ms. Benjamin went on to explain, in her opinion, that many persons in White Plains who have not voiced opposition to the project no longer read The Journal News the daily countywide newspaper, or the White Plains Watch, the monthly city newspaper, and therefore are not informed on the hospital issues, or know what is at stake. She said that she gets calls every day from one or two persons who have learned about the project, and ask what they can do to help. She implied that citizens who know the project well are convinced it is wrong for the city, for the traffic it will bring, the pollution it will bring to the city.
What the Suit Expects:
The fact sheet sent with the news release specifies three results CCOS hopes to achieve by filing the Article 78 procedure:
• They hope the court will reverse the approval and send it back to the Common Council “for a complete and procedurally correct review,” reserving the Common Council the right to make the final decision, not the court.
• They want the court or the Common Council, (the fact sheet is not clear) to “reject the request for a Special Permit and work with the hospital to craft a zoning change proposal beneficial to both the city and the hospital.”
• They want the court or the Common Council “to consider the environmental impact of developing all 214 hospital-acres and provide for meaningful open space preservation for the public and the city.”
Benjamin: 50% of Legal Fees in Hand. Fundraising effort planned.
The suit is being handled by Oxman, Tulls, Kirkpatrick, Whyatt & Geiger, with Thomas Whyatt, pointman on the suit. Benjamin said the suit “is being done at an enormous discount,” and said that the firm had set a “cap” on the amount of legal work they would conduct, but declined to reveal what that was, and that there was “no timeline” saying that Mr. Whyatt had assured her he would stick with the suit.
Ms. Benjamin said they group would not be intimidated by possible threats of a counter suit by the New York Presbyterian Hospital, even though it is the city CCOS is suing. “It’s our constitutional right (to sue),” Benjamin said.
Benjamin said “of the people who know, there is a solid majority, and by people who call us,” against the project, and that CCOS would soon do a fundraising mailing among its members to raise funds for the suit.