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Judge Dismisses Chap Crossing Suit Against Individual Officials

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Michael Wolfensohn
A lawsuit filed by Summit Greenfield against past and present New Castle Town Board Members, including Michael Wolfensohn (pictured), was recently thrown out.

A federal judge last week tossed out the portion of developer Summit/Greenfield’s litigation that personally sued one current and two former New Castle Town Board members for their decisions regarding the Chappaqua Crossing project.

Judge Kenneth M. Karas wrote in his five-page decision on July 30 that district courts have typically dismissed lawsuits against individual officials in their official capacities because the action is redundant. Summit/Greenfield also filed state and federal lawsuits against the town.

“Plaintiff has not presented a persuasive argument, or cited to dispositive authority, for the Court to deviate from this well-established practice,” Karas wrote.

In February 2011, Summit/Greenfield sued the town and the three sitting board members at the time–then-Supervisor Barbara Gerrard and council members Robin Stout and Michael Wolfensohn–for what the company alleged were “unlawful actions” that prevented it from developing the former Reader’s Digest property.

Gerrard and Wolfensohn did not run for re-election last year while Stout remains on the board. Two other board members, Elise Kessler Mottel and John Buckley, weren’t named because they had recused themselves from the Chappaqua Crossing application.

Despite the turn of events, Town Administrator Penelle Paderewski said last week that Summit/Greenfield’s legal action against the town is still pending.

Summit/Greenfield also filed state and federal lawsuits in U.S. District Court and state Supreme Court because they charged that officials caved in to pressure from critics of the mixed-use project, which in the last version before litigation was initiated called for the development of 199 residential units. The developer has contended much of the opposition surfaced because affordable residences were part of the plan. Previously, 278 units of age-restricted housing was proposed.

At the time of the filing nearly 18 months ago, Summit/Greenfield stated it had spent about $10 million on professional services related to Chappaqua Crossing. It had bought the 114-acre property in 2004.

More than a month after the suits were filed, the town board approved a plan for 111 housing units but allowed for an increase in the number of commercial tenants inside the property’s 700,000-square-foot main building.

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