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Letter: Setting The Record Straight On Recent Legal Action

I am puzzled by the brief article published last week that described my lawsuit against the village (“Supreme Court Judge Allows Demolition Work To Go Forward,” The Roslyn News, April 26). What was published was misleading, suggesting that the case was “dismissed” and construction was “allowed” by a judge.

The fact is that a judge granted two orders to temporarily halt work in order to allow a legal inquiry into village’s actions that I outlined in a sworn affidavit. The subsequent dismissal was strictly pro forma, because I chose not to proceed, for non-legal reasons I will describe.

No judge ever ruled on the merits of the case, aside from making that prima facie judgment that the case was indeed worth hearing. The article implied otherwise, especially by quoting village legal papers that called the action “frivolous.”

My own very-public personal lapse doomed the case, as I admitted in a press release that became part of the legal record. I became fearful for my personal safety. As a result, instead of serving the papers as directed by the court, I decided to let the matter drop, and I told the court that.

My affidavit made two arguments: In the first place meetings of the Architectural Review Board (ARB) were conducted improperly without public notice, and then the board refused to rectify its error by conducting a new hearing on a highly controversial application for demolition, rebuilding, and tree removal in Norgate.

Second, I argued that the ARB had made unjustifiable decisions when it approved the application, based on facts and village laws. Those issues were hardly frivolous.

As a result of the ARB’s action and my dropping the case, a wonderful old home was just demolished, two large healthy trees were cut down, and the neighborhood now faces months of unnecessary, disruptive construction culminating in a house that clashes with the surrounding homes.

I had a genuine fear, based on angry, hostile conduct I had witnessed in a recent meeting, and I also received intense pressure from people who had previously supported these issues to drop the case. That is the truth, which deserves to be reported.

I am deeply sorry that I did not stand stronger because of the losses involved, and the lost opportunity to confront the disgrace that has been ARB action all over East Hills, with the apparent support, at least until now, of village leadership.

The village has announced it will hold a public hearing on the state of building rules and the ARB, hopefully to be scheduled soon and the date announced on its homepage. I hope residents can profit from this clearer story when they participate in that hearing as well as in ARB and other proceedings.

Richard Brummel

(Ed. Note: The article was not intended to be misleading and the author may have more of a quarrel with the ARB than how the article was written.)