More than 50 community members showed up for a special meeting of the Glen Cove Community Development Agency (CDA), held jointly with the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) on Tuesday, June 5 at Glen Cove City Hall for discussion of the waterfront redevelopment. In the group were employees and representatives of Glen Isle Partners, including principals Don Monti and Michael Posillico, Darren Monti and attorney Richard Hamburger. Many of the residents' faces were the same ones that can regularly be seen at city council, planning board and other city meetings.
The community waited in the hallway at city hall to be called back into the IDA/CDA meeting.
The meeting began at 6:30 p.m. Mayor Ralph Suozzi, who serves as chairman of the IDA and CDA turned the floor over to Cara Longworth, executive director of the CDA, who stated that as there were many new board members on both the IDA and CDA, she wanted to "bring them up to speed" and give them a summary of how the city got to where it stands today on the revitalization of the waterfront. Her summary included the past 15 years, a history that has been played out and repeated through three city administrations, innumerable meetings and extensive reporting in the press.
Following Ms. Longworth's iteration, Milan Tyler, attorney for the IDA and CDA, stated that as the impending discussion of amendments to the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) might entail questions or comments which could not be answered in the presence of the public (including questions of "possible future litigation") due to attorney/client privilege, he recommended that the IDA/CDA adjourn to executive session. Executive session is defined as a session where no records of the conversation are kept and where only those participants having official reasons to be involved are allowed to be in the conversation.
This was at approximately 7:15 p.m., 45 minutes into the meeting, most of which had been Ms. Longworth's revisit of waterfront history.
The mayor made a motion to adjourn to executive session, asked for a second and a vote from agency members, while simultaneously, persons in the audience began speaking to each other and to the mayor, as to the validity of the adjournment and exclusion of the public. Among the voices was that of Janet Blatt, who reminded the mayor that he had previously said he would be holding a "workshop" to educate new agency members, and that she had researched the legality of such a meeting and was told by attorneys for New York State that such a meeting must be held in public.
As soon as the attendees began to express their loud and angry opinions, Kelly Morris, director of strategic initiatives for the City of Glen Cove, made a brief telephone call.
An objection was made by Richard Hamburger, attorney for Glen Isle Partners, to which the mayor remarked that at a special meeting, the public may not speak unless recognized by the chairman. Mr. Hamburger asked to be recognized. While he was not, he continued to speak. "There have been no threats of litigation," he said, "nor is there any basis for thinking so." He suggested that the meeting remain open and should such a question or comment come up, Mr. Tyler could reply that he could not answer or comment.
Don Monti added that if the mayor felt questions of litigation were a possibility, Glen Isle might have pertinent information on the subject.
As comments continued to go on around the table, at the table, Mayor Suozzi continued the vote. Agency members were polled and a majority of the IDA voted aye to adjourn, while a majority of the CDA voted nay. The public was told they would be allowed back in for a continuation of the meeting following executive session.
As the IDA remained seated, the CDA and the public started out the door, only to be met by five uniformed Glen Cove police officers, including one lieutenant. By the time the group of attendees had reached the hallway outside the second floor conference room of city hall, four of the officers left, while one remained throughout the rest of the evening, standing in front of the door to the conference room. When later asked why he had called the police, Mayor Suozzi told this reporter that it was done to ensure that the meeting could continue without disruption and not have to be ended.
The group in the hallway appeared resolute in their decision to wait the session out, walking about and speaking in small groups, morphing into new groups, and tripping over boxes, models and renderings of the Glen Isle proposal. According to Mr. Monti, Glen Isle had been prepared to make a presentation at the meeting. He stated that when he spoke with Ms. Longworth earlier in the day about the meeting, he was told that the developers were welcome to come, and if they chose to, they should bring the models. The developers used the opportunity in the hallway to discuss their proposal with the community members in attendance.
At approximately 9 p.m., one hour and 45 minutes after the conference room door was closed, the door was opened, and the public, depleted by half, was let back into the room as Mr. Tyler read the resolution the IDA would vote on.
The resolution, in summary, stated that the IDA, owners of the waterfront property, objected to the PDEIS (Preliminary Draft Environmental Impact Statement) filed by Glen Isle and was revoking the developer's authority to file zoning applications. It continued to say that the IDA requested that the planning board reject the zoning applications and PDEIS based on the developer's lack of site control and/or authority from the IDA for the development as contemplated in the PDEIS, and authorized the executive director of the agency to communicate the content of the resolution to the appropriate members of the planning board.
Following a unanimous aye vote on the resolution, Mayor Suozzi made a motion to adjourn. It was seconded, voted on, and members of the IDA collected their papers and made ready to leave. This was approximately five minutes after the public had been brought back to the meeting.
Mr. Hamburger asked if Mayor Suozzi would answer questions, the mayor was advised by counsel that it would be his choice, and a back-and-forth began as the mayor packed up.
Mr. Monti commented on a letter he said he sent to Ms. Longworth in which Glen Isle acknowledged the IDA's objections to the PDEIS, and said he could have cleared up some of the objections had he been able to speak before executive session was called. Mr. Tyler fielded the question/comment, stating that the letter did not address all the issues involved. Mr. Monti asked if the IDA was prepared to "meet immediately in an effort to discuss the points not approved" and was told by Mr. Tyler that the IDA has always been ready to meet.
Mr. Posillico addressed the mayor as to Glen Isle's attempts to meet with the city, to which Mayor Suozzi remarked that he was not going to allow Mr. Posillico to "waste my time rewriting history." The mayor added that the meeting had been adjourned, and as such, he was on his own time. The mayor suggested that Mr. Posillico call the mayor's office the following morning. The tenor quickly declined to a "he said...he said" dialogue, with both parties declaring the other party guilty of non-communication. Mr. Posillico said he has offered to meet with the mayor on any schedule. Mayor Suozzi said Mr. Posillico picks and chooses the questions he'll answer. At this point, Mayor Suozzi left the room.
Janet Blatt stated her opinion that the city deserves open meetings and dialogue, and addressed Ms. Longworth, saying, "Whether we are for or against any development, we are the city. All we wanted tonight was to listen and have an open forum for the people. Mayor Suozzi ran his campaign on the promise of open government."
Within a few minutes of the mayor's departure, Ms. Longworth left the already adjourned meeting, as did some residents, including Glen Cove business owner Joan Hawkins, who called the meeting "a terrible, terrible evening," agreeing with Ms. Blatt that "democracy is a fragile thing."
Mr. Tyler remained but made it clear that in any further conversation, he was not representing the IDA. Mr. Monti, literally falling to his knees, stated that Glen Isle has "begged the mayor on hands and knees to meet with us," but, he said, he has been told that the mayor states Glen Isle refuses to meet with the city. He called the situation an "insult to the city and the taxpayers, and an abuse of power." Mr. Tyler refused to engage in any commentary about the city government without the mayor present.
Mr. Monti asked Mr. Tyler if the purpose of the meeting, and the subsequent executive session, was to change the zoning at the waterfront. Mr. Tyler's answer in the negative satisfied the developer, as did Mr. Tyler's statement that the IDA welcomes the resumption of talks.
Mayor Suozzi, when reached for comment, called Mr. Monti's remarks "the spin that is on the street" adding that, "It's just ridiculous. We have had meetings, but nothing of substance has happened. We want meetings; we are not looking to halt or stall the revitalization process and we have been asking [the developers] to come back to the IDA." Glen Isle, said the mayor, has instead taken their proposals to the planning board, which has no jurisdiction, at this point in the process. Concluded Mayor Suozzi, "All the rest is rhetoric."