Formerly Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2012 11:43 am | Updated: 11:47 am, Thu Aug 30, 2012 @ https://theislandnow.com/great_neck/news/article_73d110fc-f2b9-11e1-940c-001a4bcf887a.html
Attorneys representing 238 Roslyn Heights residents in separate lawsuits against the owner of the Roslyn Country Club are prepared to withdraw from the case if the residents support the town’s plan to purchase and renovate the recreation facilities to create either a town park or a special park district.
Edward Blodnick and Thomas Fazio of Blodnick Fazio & Associates sent Roslyn Country Club residents a letter last week stating their intention to withdraw from the case if residents express support for the town’s plan to purchase the property for a town park.
Fazio said the firm’s position on withdrawing from the case would be the same if residents supported the idea Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman’s proposal to create a special park district
“We may have to make the choice to withdraw. We can prosecute the litigation but with all this other stuff going around us makes that difficult at best,” Fazio said.
Fazio said the residents are suing over their easement rights to the recreation property, which the suit argues were denied when the owner of the property, Manouchehr “Manny” Malekan, shuttered the facilities seven years ago. The residents, he said, are also seeking damages for declines in property values that resulted from the loss of recreation facilities which included a pool and tennis courts. The lawyers estimate the damages to be $25,000 per property owner.
Fazio said Supreme Court Justice Joel Asarch would have to approve the attorneys withdrawing from the case.
The town board recently voted 5-2 to acquire the 7.5-acre property for $2 million and to spend $7.5 million in improvements to turn it into a town park facility open to all residents. Under the proposal, the town would finance the improvements through a bond that would be paid for by annual membership fees in the $1,000 range.
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Kaiman, who proposed the purchase, projected the park would draw as many as 1,000 members, which he said would cover the full cost of the bond.
But critics expressed concerns that the membership fees would not cover the costs of the improvements and town taxpayers would end up footing the bill.
Civic association leaders from outside the Roslyn Heights then collected 4,300 signatures on petitions calling for a referendum that would allow voters to decide whether or not the town would go ahead with the $7.5 million in improvements.
With challenges to the petitions in court, Kaiman recently proposed to Roslyn Heights residents an alternative financing plan through the creation of a special park district – as had been proposed by the original plan’s critics.
Under his special district proposal, residents with existing easements would pay an additional $1,500 to $2,000 annually in taxes to pay for the pool and tennis court renovations. Kaiman suggested a “limited” number of residents outside the 668-home development in Roslyn Heights could also pay membership fees to use the facilities and cover maintenance costs.
In a letter dated Aug. 16 Fazio and Blodnick said the only “practical” solution for the operation of the club’s recreation facilities would be to negotiate a deal with Malekan that would have him “operate the pool and other facilities at a fixed rate” for residents who would have “some interest” in a catering facility Malekan operates on the property.
Fazio and Blodnick said the homeowners support for the town’s proposals to purchase the 7.2 acre property were “both unrealistic and not in the best interest of RCC homeowners.”
The letter concluded, “If you wish to continue your current course of conduct and act contrary to our advice we sill have no other alternative but to withdraw as counsel from this matter.”
Fazio said Kaiman’s recent special district proposal does not take into account the fact that the residents’ easements give them the option to use the recreation facilities for a fee. When the Roslyn Country Club development was built by Levitt & Sons nearly 60 years ago, the fees were set at $100 per year.
Malekan was unable to reach an agreement with residents on raising the fees prior to closing the recreation facilities.
Imposing additional taxes to cover the cost of renovating the pools and tennis courts would likely prompt some residents to sue the town, Fazio said.
“I believe some of those homeowners are going to protest being members of a pool they might choose not to join,” said Fazio. He added that membership fees in the range of $1,000 projected by the town in its original town park proposal would have also prompted lawsuits.
Fazio said he would reach out to Kaiman as his firm has done in the past.
Kaiman said it isn’t clear what the merits of the current lawsuits are, and declined to discuss them.
“We believe that any action taken by the town would enhance the value of the easements,” Kaiman said.
Todd Zarin, president of the Roslyn Civic Association, said the meaning of the attorneys’ letter isn’t clear.
“They’re somewhat less than abundantly clear. I need to look for them for clarification, specifically for what they want and I don’t think the letter provides that,” Zarin said.
Zarin is a member of the four-member committee of Roslyn Country Club Civic Association members that chose the law firm, the third law firm to represent the 238 litigants in the suits against Malekan.
Malekan said the lawsuits against him have no merit and in a phone interview this week indicated he had no inclination to meet with the residents.
“I never closed the club. They wanted me to open the club and lose $2 million a year and suck my thumb,” Malekan said.
Malekan said he looked favorabily at the town’s latest proposal to create a special district on the property, which would include elimination of any easement rights to the catering facility.
“That’s perfect. I have no objection to that. I’ll entertain that proposal,” Malekan said. “I don’t want to fight.”
Zarin said Kaiman had presented the “skeleton of a very interesting plan that could be utterly transformative to this community.”
He said once Kaiman presents the financial details for the special district, it will be possible to determine whether the plan has widespread support among residents.