Mamaroneck Speaks Up About Yacht Club Litigation

The article below was written by Sandra Larriva, Patch Staff and Published January 27, 2010, updated January 29, 2010 in Larchmont Patch

Rumors and reports on possible settlement make residents speak up at BOT meeting.

Village of Mamaroneck residents offered a clear message to the Board of Trustees on Monday: Don't settle, at least not yet.

At issue were rumors and reports that the Village was considering reaching a settlement soon with the Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club (MBYC) on the club's construction plans.

"Mayor Norm Rosenblum said he is trying to bring every outstanding lawsuit against the village to a close 'as quickly as possible,' but that the priority right now is settling the case involving the club," reported the Journal News last week, adding that an attorney representing the club said his client was hopeful that a deal could be reached "in three to four weeks" and they had agreed to "stop the clock on all litigation until middle of February.

Village Attorney Christie Derrico downplayed reports, saying " a large portion of what you are reading is a total mischaracterization and not true."

The History

The back and fourth litigation between the Village and the club has been going on for several years, starting when MBYC submitted a site plan for 32 seasonal housing units to the Village Planning Board in 2002. A year later, the Board issued a moratorium on issuing approvals to conduct a zoning review in the area.

Next, in 2005, MBYC filed a $30 million lawsuit against the Village's Planning Board and building inspector for delaying its construction plans and causing a loss of revenue. In 2006-7, the State Supreme Court gave the Planning Board 30 days to review MBYC's application, holding that the board was prolonging the review because of a local group's firm opposition to the plan (the local group being the Shore Acres Property Association).

The Board responded by declaring itself the lead agency under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and, having conducted a year-long Environmental Impact Study (EIS), issued a document allowing MBYC to build 12 seasonal housing units as part of the clubhouse. It did not approve the club's additional plan for 20 units on Otter Creek, a critical environmental area according to local experts, and the Long Island Sound.

The club then filed an Article 78 proceeding, which allowed it to appeal the board's decision according to New York State law. The court is expected to deliver a decision on this case on or around Feb. 5 of this year.

Tom Murphy, a former board member, thinks there's a very good chance that the court is going to decide in favor of the village, so he doesn't think the Board should settle now. "I can see how the club wants to rush, but not the Village," he said.

Finally, there's a second Article 78 motion by the club to bring the board and building inspector to approve the original site plan by default. This last motion was dismissed by the New York Supreme Court in the village's favor in September 2009.

In addition to all this, the owner of the MBYC, Bernard Rosenshein, is looking for a reduction in the property's taxes. "Mr. Rosenshein has filed a certiorari on his property every year for the 50 years I've lived here," said Alan Wood, a long-time village resident who has served on numerous boards and commissions.

The Opposition

Out of the seven people who spoke on Monday, some where members of the local group fiercely opposing the club's site plan (mentioned above), but some were not.

"It's only a small number of Shore Acres residents who are rich who care about this MBYC issue," was one of the three "myths to the board" that Shore Acres Drive resident Len Aubrey wished to lay bare on Monday.

Aubrey, the president of the Shore Acres Property Association, said that the landmark waterfront legislation put together by "Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals" 25 years ago has served the community well. (He refers to the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and another rule regarding zoning and the waterfront.)

"The owner of the MBYC, since mid 1980s, has filed lawsuits against this village to strike down that legislation," he said. "Throughout that period...members of this board, Democrats and Republicans, have opposed those efforts."

Myth number two, he said, is that Rosenshein wants to support the village, "so much so that he is willing to give jobs to local contractors." Aubrey then referred to the 12 residential units approved by the board, "more residential units than any club 50 miles up and 50 miles down the coast from this point... If Mr Rosenshein really cared about our village he would have gone and started building that project just about the time the recession hit."

The club's case, officials say, was founded on the claim that there was a demand from members and staff for the units to be built. Why then, in the four and a half years that I've been addressing this board [of trustees] and the planning board, asked Aubrey, "not once has this room been filled with yacht club members in support of this project?"

The third myth is that the village must settle. "In my view, we've already settled," said Aubrey, referring once again to the 12 approved units.

Village Mayor Norman Rosenblum explained to Aubrey that the Board of Trustees had given directions to its legal representatives and that they were currently handling the issue. "But eventually it will come back to this board and this board will make a decision upon their recommendations."

Derrico followed, adding that the board was striving to review all legal matters, "but the stand is still the same, to support the village and do what's in the best interest of the village."

Next spoke former village trustee Nick Allison, who asked the Board of Trustees to wait until February, when the court is expected to decide on one of the legal actions.

Cindy Golub, a village resident for 19 years, expressed concern over an ad seen in Florida in which the club advertised the units in question in this litigation. The original site plan claimed that the units would be for members only, officials said.

"How do we prevent this project from turning into a back door way to simply evade village law and create a condo development where a club is supposed to exist?" she said.

Alan Wood spoke directly to the Mayor. "And I hope you take it to heart, Mr. Rosensh...blum," said Wood, lightening up the audience, if at least for a few seconds. "As you promised me this would be a straight administration, if you give into this, especially before we hear from the judge, we really have a cause for action, and it would not be pleasant."

Mayor Rosenblum explained that the situation had nothing to do with one, two or an entire group of residents of Shore Acres, but with the well-being of the entire village, and that everyone would be taken into account in the board's decision.

"I for one, who am a life-long resident, my mother was born here, I find it abhorrent...in situations where individuals and groups try to split up this village," he said. "That will not happen while I am major."

Former members of the board spoke as well, reviewing the "painstaking" process they followed 25 years ago to create legislation that would protect the waterfront and emphasizing the importance of following the precedents and work by people of the village.

"I've traveled around this country, I've boated around this country; it is one of the most unique harbors we have in this country and it's worth preserving," said Bill Shaner, Soundview Drive resident. "It bears an investment in that future."