The City Council voted unanimously last week to hire two law firms to assist in its ongoing litigation with a developer that is suing the city, the Zoning Board of Appeals and a number of current and former city officials for $50 million.
The council authorized the city to hire Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, of White Plains, and New York City-based Kudman Trachten Aloe LLP, each at a rate of $250 per hour, to defend the city, the zoning board and city officials, and assess the status of the suit, which was filed by the real estate development firm Sinclair Haberman, which is based in Manhattan.
In 2012, the Herald reported that a ruling by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Nassau County paved the way for Sinclair Haberman to move forward with the suit against the city, after the zoning board rejected the developer’s plan to build a condominium complex on Shore Road over a decade ago.
In 1985, Haberman received a variance from the city to build four 10-story condo and co-op buildings along a waterfront block of Shore Road, with a total of 432 units. That led to the construction of one of the first luxury condo developments in the city, the 126-unit Sea Pointe Towers, at 360 Shore Road, operated by the Xander Corporation and designed to be part of the four-tower complex, between Lincoln and Monroe boulevards.
Permits to build the remaining three towers were issued in the late 1980s, but the project languished for years amid various disputes with the city. Haberman was prepared to construct a second building in 2003 — Sea Pointe Towers II — but the Xander Corporation, which is also a defendant in the lawsuit, petitioned the zoning board to revoke the permit, which it did.
In its suit, Haberman alleges that the zoning board bowed to political pressure from unit owners at the adjacent Sea Pointe Towers, who claimed that their views would be obstructed by the proposed condos.
Scott Mollen, an attorney for Haberman, told the Herald that the Sea Pointe Towers residents were concerned not only about the views, but about parking and sharing a swimming pool, even though Haberman had obtained approvals for the project and had invested millions of dollars.