The new partnership looking to build 129 units of senior housing on Kisco Avenue is threatening to file lawsuits totaling $50 million against the Village of Mount Kisco.
Despite the village board having voted unanimously Mar. 13 to grant the Manhattan-based HFZ Capital the option of buying the 17.7 acres at 270 Kisco Ave., the contract has yet to be signed by the trustees. Under terms of the agreement, the developer would pay the village about $4 million for the parcel.
Robert Mishkin and Adam Feldman, two of the HFZ Capital partners, expressed frustration last Tuesday, the day after a village board meeting where public opposition to the plan returned.
“Regretfully and contrary to the advice you as trustees are receiving from the Village Attorney, Whitney Singleton, we will be filing litigation in federal court reopening the Federal Fair Housing Case and Settlement and Westchester County Supreme Court against the Village of Mount Kisco,” Mishkin stated in an Apr. 18 e-mail to the village board.
Mishkin told The Examiner that HFZ Capital could seek to sue the village for $50 million. He said for “an unknown reason,” the contract has not been signed by the village.
“Do they want the project or not?” Mishkin asked rhetorically.
Notice of claims were not filed by HFZ Capital in state Supreme Court or in federal court as of last week.
The village would be running afoul of federal housing laws should officials fail to sign the contract, Mishkin said. There would be 40 assisted living units for seniors with disabilities, while the remainder of the units would be “senior enabled living,” he said.
“Yesterday, the village board, made the decision again, now 10 years after the Federal Fair Housing Settlement was signed, to block seniors with disabilities from living in Mount Kisco,” Mishkin said.
Anthony Veneziano, an attorney representing HFZ Capital, said his client would consider suing the village if the contract is not signed. He did not mention how long the partners would wait before moving forward with litigation.
“My clients will pursue their rights,” Veneziano said.
Mishkin noted that the partners have been trying to open a senior housing facility since 2008 as part of a settlement of claim in the lawsuit filed against the village in 2002. The project was sold to developer Fortus-Hearth in 2012, with an agreement from the village that the housing application would be reviewed and ultimately approved by the village. After extended inactivity, HFZ Capital recently surfaced as the new applicant.
“We have tried to resolve this matter without bringing additional litigation but the Village of Mount Kisco had refused to meet,” Mishkin said.
Singleton said any potential lawsuits against the village have no merit. All claims against the village from previous lawsuits in the matter have been dismissed, he said.
While Singleton has acknowledged that the village has not signed the contract to sell its property to HFZ Capital, the developer has not received “any third-party approvals from the DEP (New York City Department of Environmental Protection) or anyone else,” he said.
The applicant must obtain site plan approval as well as special use, wetlands and steep slope permits from the planning board.
Mayor Michael Cindrich said he respects residents’ rights to voice their opinions, but was concerned about the delay and the pattern of misinformation and inflammatory comments spread throughout the community about the project.
According to numbers provided by the developer, more than $15 million has been spent on the project, Cindrich said. The village has received about $2 million in taxes and contract payments.
“The people who contracted with the village to (develop) the subject property were encouraged to do so by no less than a dozen elected Mount Kisco officials, encouraged by Mount Kisco appointed officials, consultants and village managers,” Cindrich said. “Developers and operators of senior citizen housing have invested millions of dollars in good faith to achieve their goal.”
Last week, Mount Kisco Village Historian Harry McCartney was one of several residents who opposed the sale of the property and called for a public hearing on the proposal. McCartney said the mountain is the “natural edifice that defines our town” and that the area should be preserved as open space.
“The most beautiful part of our village is that mountain,” said resident Pat Reilly.
Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) Chairman Robert Liebman questioned whether the site, which is very steep, is appropriate to build senior housing.
Veneziano said the environmental issues being raised by project opponents had previously been addressed by the planning board. Only five of the nearly 18 acres would be developed, he said.
Furthermore, the building that would house the seniors has been reduced from three and a half to one and a half stories, Veneziano said.
Though the village board did not determine last week if a public hearing is warranted, Deputy Mayor Anthony Markus e-mailed a statement from the board following last week’s meeting.
“Speakers noted that there are many reasons why the development should not take place and requested a public hearing,” Markus wrote. “The members of the village board will hold a meeting to decide whether or not to schedule a formal hearing.”
The project is on the agenda for Tuesday night’s planning board meeting.