A group of Dayton Beach Park shareholders, represented by attorney Mike Scala, won its venue battle with New York City over whether court hearings should take place in Queens or Manhattan this past week.
In March, the shareholders of the Mitchell Lama housing cooperative filed an Article 78 proceeding in Queens County against the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Dayton Beach Park board of directors. The complaint alleged that HPD failed to act as the oversight agency to prevent the board of directors from engaging in egregious self-dealing, election fraud and lack of fiduciary responsibility to the corporation. A preexisting case filed by the board of directors in Manhattan seeks to disenfranchise up to 255 residents from voting in the election of directors by calling their shareholder status into question.
"When we filed our lawsuit in Queens, the city asked the judge not to sign an order for a return date there on the grounds there was a related matter pending in Manhattan. The judge signed the order, and the city then filed a motion to transfer our case to New York County,” Scala explained.
As a result of the city's motion, the Queens matter was put on hold while the Manhattan court decided whether it should hear both cases. The city and the Dayton board teamed up against the shareholders to argue the cases should be heard in Manhattan where HPD's offices are located and claimed an impartial trial could not be held in Queens due to "long standing political affiliations therein." Scala and the shareholders filed a cross-motion arguing both cases should be contested in Queens because Dayton Beach Park, the board of directors and the shareholders are all located there.
Justice Carol R. Edmead of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, issued an 11-page decision dated April 26, ruling, "the Court finds that Queens County has a far more legitimate interest in the outcome of the decision, which centers on the actions of a cooperative corporation in Queens and the shareholder status of several Queens residents." As such, the city's motion was denied, the shareholders' cross-motion was granted and the Supreme Court in the County of Queens will decide the matters.
This victory for the shareholders is especially significant because conducting hearings in Manhattan made it difficult for the Rockaway Beach residents to participate or even attend court while their rights were being adjudicated.
"Traveling into Manhattan is a nightmare," Dayton Beach Park shareholder and petitioner in the case, Patricia J. McCabe said. "It takes hours to get there and hours to get home. Then there is the price of parking. I have a disability and public transportation is just not an option."
"We won home field advantage," concluded Scala. "We believed all along that aside from the physical location of the courthouse being pertinent, a case concerning the interests of Queens residents should be decided by a Queens judge. Any day you can go to court and win a decision against the city is a good day in my book."
With venue decided, the Queens court will now turn to the merits and decide, among other issues, whether HPD should take disciplinary action against the Dayton Beach Park board of directors.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS