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County: No Victory for Million Air in Airport Case
Westchester County has refuted claims of legal victories by a fixed-base operator at the county airport in its continued civil suit where it has hoped to build another hangar to house aircraft.
County Attorney John Nonna said the private aviation firm Million Air had most of its original lawsuit tossed by a federal district judge earlier this year after it alleged breach of contract on the county’s part in the June 2021 filing.
The company has sought to build a 78,000-square-foot hangar and believed that it had an agreement under the administration of former county executive Rob Astorino to erect the facility, Nonna said.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Vincent Briccetti dismissed the breach of contract portion of the litigation in March, and reiterated earlier this month that modifications and improvements as outlined in the lease agreement should not be interpreted to include the construction of new hangars.
“The court said, no, they didn’t have a right under their contract to do that,” Nonna said.
Five days after the Mar. 11 court ruling that dismissed breach of contract against the county, Million Air submitted a formal request to the county to build the hangar. On Apr. 22 it was denied, spurring Million Air to claim that the county had been “unreasonable,” paving the way for the fixed-based operator to file an amended claim.
Nonna said the only part of Million Air’s original suit that remains intact is the dispute over whether it needs to complete a stormwater plan for the existing 50,000-square-foot hanger.
“When George Latimer came into office and I got involved in this issue, we told them you have to have a stormwater plan, you’ve got to do it and you’ve got to do it for the 50,000-square-foot hangar. It’s a requirement,” he said. “We’re not going to talk about the 78,000-square-foot hangar because you don’t have a right to do that (now).”
Since the dispute regarding the larger hangar was dismissed by the judge in March, Million Air will be unable to claim damages anywhere close to the $30 million it sought, Nonna added.
Twice this month, Million Air’s legal team has exulted at decisions made by Briccetti. First, on Oct. 4, the judge denied the county’s request to have the amended claim dismissed.
“I am pleased by this week’s district court ruling, which is a significant victory in Million Air’s pursuit of its claim that the county wrongfully withheld consent to the new hangar,” the plaintiff’s lead attorney Russell Yankwitt said following that ruling.
Ten days later, after the court denied a request by the county to separate consideration of the stormwater plan issue from the amended complaint, Million Air also issued another statement claiming victory.
But Nonna said the separation is largely an inconsequential development.
The court has granted both parties a Jan. 17, 2023, deadline to complete discovery related to the amended complaint.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/