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The Legal Beat
Bluefield Extension Sues CUPON’S Attorney For Tortious Interference At Ramapo ZBA
Bluefield Extension, the owner and developer of an assemblage in Ramapo, has filed suit in Rockland County Supreme Court against attorney Susan Shapiro. Shapiro has previously filed three separate suits against Bluefield, its partner, and principal Yakov Grunwald, seeking to delay or derail Bluefield’s efforts to develop several lots on Union Road in Hillcrest in the Town of Ramapo.
The developer’s plans call for up to 15 houses on four lots on just over an acre that is zoned for a maximum of three to four single-family homes.
In two of the three previous lawsuits brought by Shapiro on behalf of her client CUPON-Hillcrest (Citizen United To Protect Our Neighborhood), the attorney successfully argued the zoning variances and other approvals granted to the developer were illegal. The third suit is pending.
The tortious interference suit stems from a statement Shapiro allegedly made to the ZBA at a board meeting that the applicants made a “bad investment in the property and that it was not the job of the ZBA to bail applicants out of a bad investment.”
To counter that allegation, the developers offered an appraisal to the ZBA that reflected the value of the property when it was acquired, attempting to show that they made a sound investment.
Plaintiffs say Shapiro threatened the appraiser, but the lawsuit does not specify how she did so. Seemingly, as a result of the alleged threats, the appraiser sent a letter to the ZBA asking them not to use the appraisal.
“The case is frivolous,” said Shapiro. She says that the controversy stems from a faulty appraisal that was voluntarily withdrawn by the appraiser after her expert reviewed it.
Bluefield claims Shapiro’s actions caused them monetary damages of $30,000 per month in finance fees and her intimidation of a witness was effectively tortious interference with the contract between the developer and the appraiser, and tortious interference with the developer’s business relationship. Tortious interference is a common law tort allowing a claim for damages against a defendant who wrongfully interferes with the plaintiff’s contractual or business relationships.
The plaintiffs are seeking damages, a declaratory judgment stating that the appraisal could and should be used in their ZBA application, and injunctive relief preventing Shapiro from interfering with the appraiser and the use of the appraisal.
Neither the developers nor the Town have filed an answer in Shapiro’s third suit filed on behalf of CUPON-Hillcrest seeking to overturn the approvals granted by the Town for the development on the Union Road lots. The Town has requested an extension until September 9th.
HNA Fights Back; Asks Court To Dismiss “Frivolous” Suit
In a blistering response to a lawsuit filed in Rockland County Supreme Court on June 21, 2022 by ZVG @ Palisades LLC that sought to compel HNA to sell its Route 9W Training Center in Palisades for the balance due on a defaulted contract, HNA has asked the court to dismiss the case, calling it frivolous and “an absurd demand for specific performance of a long dead agreement.”
In other words, it’s just bonkers, the response maintains.
HNA has also sought to have the “lis pendens” filed by ZVG canceled, removing an impediment to HNA contracting and closing with another buyer for the property. A lis penden is document recorded with the county clerk that would prevent a closing until the matter is resolved.
ZVG@Palisades LLC had accused HNA of a breach of contract, saying its efforts to thwart the sale of the hotel and conference center two years ago violated the terms of the contract. The plaintiff asked the court to force HNA to convey title to ZVG in accordance with the original and amended contract. ZVG says it has the funds available to close and asked the Court to force HNA to adhere to the original and amended contract terms.
HNA says ZVG has no valid contract or claim to close on the deal and that it is seeking to tie up the property and prevent its sale to “gain some perceived leverage.” Attorneys for HNA provide a detailed account of each contract amendment, ZVG’s filing for bankruptcy to stall the loss of its deposit, and the ultimate order from the bankruptcy court terminating the contract and ZVG’s claims on the property. ZVG lost $8 million when it defaulted on the $40 million purchase price.
HNA is also battling claims by SL Green who is attempting to prevent HNA from transferring any of the proceeds from the sale of the Training Center to China.
While these proceedings wend their way through the courts, the Town of Orangetown’s preferred purchaser for the HNA property REVEIL LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Company, continues to attempt to come to terms with HNA to acquire the property for redevelopment, according to Town of Orangetown Supervisor Teresa Kenny.
“Active negotiations continue between HNA and the purchaser on finalizing the PSA,” said Kenny, referring to the PSA (Purchase & Sale Agreement).
REVEIL, the team of California-based developers tapped one year ago by the Town of Orangetown to buy and transform the 106-acre HNA Palisades Training Center campus at 334 Route 9W in Palisades, are in contract to purchase HNA for $33 million.
No hearings have yet been set on HNA’s Motion to Dismiss ZVG’s complaint.