The applicant of a controversial 129-unit senior housing proposal in Mount Kisco filed a notice of claim in federal court last week, which could lead to a $50 million lawsuit against various village officials and boards.
Robert Mishkin, the development partner of HFZ Capital, filed the notice in U.S District Court in White Plains just hours before public comments were closed at an informational hearing on the proposal at the June 5 village board meeting.
The claim includes allegations of “negligence in failing to timely and properly process and administer” the developer’s application approvals; “malicious prosecution” by village officials during the review process; interference with contract, economic advantage and prospective business relationships for the developer; and Village Attorney Whitney Singleton’s failure to disclose he represented a client who proposed a senior housing facility on Radio Circle.
In March, the board voted unanimously to provide HFZ Capital with an option to purchase 17.7 acres of village-owned land at 270 Kisco Ave. for $4.1 million.
The matter is in limbo following outcry after that vote from residents concerned that the project would be harmful to the environment and degrade the hillside referred to as Kisco Mountain.
It lists potential litigation against the village, the village board, planning board, zoning board of appeals, all of those boards’ members and Singleton. The claim also named former longtime Planning Board chairman Joseph Cosentino.
Mishkin first threatened a $50 million lawsuit in April after it became apparent the village was not prepared to sign the contract providing HFZ Capital with an option to buy the land despite the previous month’s vote.
“Obviously I am concerned,” said Mayor Michael Cindrich. “At this time, it is inappropriate for me or any other village official to comment.”
Despite stern opposition, Cindrich said last month he supported the project while Trustee Peter Grunthal said he was against it. Trustees Anthony Markus, Jean Farber and Karen Schleimer have said they are undecided.
At last week’s hearing, Anthony Veneziano, an attorney representing the applicant, confirmed the filing of the notice, saying “the applicant hasn’t been treated fairly.”
Veneziano said the proposed development would bring many benefits to Mount Kisco, including additional tax revenue totaling as much as $200,000 for the village, $360,000 for the Bedford School District and $90,000 for the county.
Environmental issues associated with the project have been studied for several years by the planning board, the lead agency in the review process. There have also been two findings statements approved, Veneziano said.
He said about 33 acres in the area would still be owned by the village and can be kept as open space.
Residents did not oppose the project in large numbers until after the village board approved the option agreement with HFZ Capital in March, Veneziano added.
“We have a fully negotiated agreement,” Veneziano said.
If the village board is unwilling to work with HFZ Capital, a lawsuit will proceed because denying sale would ruin the developers financially, he said.
Veneziano charged that Singleton has had a relationship with a client of his private law practice who has proposed an assisted living facility on Radio Circle.
Singleton said his firm represents many Mount Kisco residents, including about 18 who were in the audience during the hearing. He said there is nothing unusual about representing local residents in his private practice, but denied doing so for the owner of the Radio Circle property.
Most of the speakers at last week’s informational hearing opposed the project. Village Historian Harry McCartney said 400 residents had signed a petition calling on trustees to reject the proposal and designate the property as undevelopable.
Another resident who opposed the project, John Rhodes, said the village board was under no obligation to sign the contract with the developer. After HFZ Capital took over the project from a previous applicant, it became a new application, he said.
But the proposal also has its supporters. Resident Nicola Pinnetti said there was an agreement approved three months ago and it should be honored. The project would generate tax revenue for Mount Kisco with no impact on enrollment for the schools, he said.
Pinnetti said in one day he collected signatures from a petition from 120 residents supporting the project.
The board voted unanimously to close public comments but will accept written comments through next Monday, June 19 at 4:30 p.m.
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/