WPP Settles Lawsuit on Open Space

WPP Settles Lawsuit on Open Space; Community Receives a Benefit;

Further Park West Village Development Plans Revealed

 Westsiders for Participation, Inc., has agreed to an out-of court settlement of the community lawsuit that sought to establish the legally required amount of open space in the west block of Park West Village.  Counsel for the defendant, 808 Columbus Avenue LLC, committed to the terms of the settlement agreement orally before Justice Judith Gische of the New York State Supreme Court on July 9, 2009.  A written stipulation of settlement agreement was subsequently negotiated between both parties and among all petitioners.  This agreement will be formally ordered later this week by Justice Gische and placed on the public record.

 Copies of the stipulation of settlement agreement are available upon request.

 This second of two community lawsuits was filed on February 26, 2009, and styled Bunten et al. v. BSA et al.  Additional petitioners in the lawsuit were Mary Lee Baranger, Lois Hoffmann, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, State Senator Bill Perkins, Assemblymember Daniel J. O’Donnell, and Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito.  We thank them all for their service to the community.

 Community Receives a  Benefit

 In exchange for agreeing to discontinue the second lawsuit, Westsiders for Public Participation, Inc., received a payment of $150,000 for use as a community benefit, of which $90,000 was immediately disbursed, both in repayment of funds we had borrowed to pay legal fees and in payment of additional legal fees due to our attorney, Jack Lester.

 The remaining $60,000 is far greater than the grand total of all funds ever contributed from all sources in support of the community legal action.  Thus, all community funds contributed to Westsiders for Public Participation since its founding on April 9, 2008, have become available once again for community use.  Any contributions that were explicitly restricted for payment of legal fees will remain restricted for that purpose.

 Why Did We Settle Out of Court?

 Even though many community stakeholders gave as generously as possible, we were simply unable to sustain the cost of legal action any further.  Perhaps more important, the legal remedy we sought–annulment of the 808 Columbus Avenue building permit–had become of little or no constructive benefit to the community over time, given the unanticipated delays in securing it–first in compelling the Department of Buildings to issue a final determination of the legality of the permit, next in compelling the Board of Standards and Appeals to hear our appeal of that determination and waiting for its decision, and finally in waiting for the New York State Supreme Court to hear our argument.

 As satisfying as a legal victory might have been, a financial settlement in lieu of continued litigation ultimately became of greater practical benefit to the community.

 When Were Further Park West Village Development  Revealed?

 After five weeks of exhaustive negotiation between parties and among petitioners, the stipulation of settlement agreement was finally concluded irrevocably late on the afternoon of Thursday, August 13, approximately one hour before I (lead petitioner Paul Bunten) incidentally received the news of the plan to construct the new Jewish Home on remaining open space within the west block of Park West Village.  Had I received this news earlier in the day on Thursday, I would have reached an entirely different decision than the one I ultimately made–in the absence of complete information–about how to act most responsibly in the community interest.

 It would have been helpful for me to know as much as the defendant knew in the course of settlement negotiation.  I presume that no other named petitioner received information concerning the proposed Jewish Home at Park West Village any earlier than I did.

 What Are the New Plans?

 For further information concerning the plan to relocate the Jewish Home within Park West Village, see this article dated August 13 by the West Side Spirit.  The Jewish Home has provided this statement through its representative.

 What Will Become of the First Community Lawsuit?

 The first community lawsuit, which sought to compel an environmental review of the entire Columbus Village development, must now be discontinued pro forma, because we have agreed to raise no further challenge to the construction of 808 Columbus Avenue as a condition of settling the second lawsuit.  This first community lawsuit was filed on April 11, 2008, amended with petitioners added on August 1, 2008,  and styled Bunten et al. v. DOB et al.

 Additional petitioners in the first community lawsuit were Mary Lee Baranger, Robert Cabrera, Harold Fredenburgh, Laurence Mackler, Anne Wangh, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, State Senator Bill Perkins, Assemblymember Daniel J. O’Donnell, and Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito.  We thank them all for their service to the community.

 What Will We Do Next?

 Westsiders for Public Participation, Inc., is a non-profit corporation formed under the laws of the State of New York and eligible for tax-exempt status from the IRS.  We intend to continue as a force for public participation in community-based planning in the Park West Village community and beyond.

 Legally recognized areas of environmental review are still applicable to our community, but simply not available to us as a matter of law.  We fully intend to seek other means of mitigating unacceptable impacts of the Columbus Village development upon the surrounding Park West Village community.  For a fuller discussion of pertinent environmental impacts, see this letter to the mayor’s office from Park West Village Tenants’ Association president Maggi Peyton.

 How to Find Out More About Us

 Bookmark our website to be reminded of our current activities.  Email us at westsiders@earthlink.net if you wish to subscribe to our progress updates.  Please provide us with your name, your location, and your preferred email address. Your information will be held in strict confidence.

 How to Support Us

 By Credit or Debit Card:  Visit our secure website, hosted by PayPal: http://snipurl.com/westsiders.

 By Check:  Mail your check payable to Westsiders for Public Participation to:

 Westsiders for Public Participation, Inc.

P.O. Box 20093, Park West Station

New York, NY 10025

 Please include your email address if you wish either to receive an acknowledgment of your contribution or to subscribe to our progress updates.

 Names of contributors will be held in strict confidence.  We pledge our accountability to the community.  Annual financial statements are available to contributors upon request.

 The Commitment of Westsiders for Public Participation

 FIRST: Assure every community stakeholder the legal right to public participation in every decision that’s made about the Park West Village community.

 SECOND: Empower all community stakeholders by providing a focus for the contribution of services and funds in support of Westsiders for Public Participation’s goals.

 THIRD: Provide leadership and education to the communities of New York City who want to remain livable within the current climate of rapid urban growth, by working with community stakeholders to identify, claim and exercise their rights to public participation in community-based planning.

 Our Community Partners

 We are a Neighborhood Partner of the Historic Districts Council.

 We are a voting member of the Community-Based Planning Task Force of the Municipal Art Society of New York.

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