Orangetown Moves Forward With Eminent Domain To Take Title To HNA Palisades Premier Training Center

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Town Has 90 Days To Collect Its Findings To Take The 106-Acre Property, Once Occupied By IBM

By Tina Traster

It’s a go. The Town of Orangetown is moving forward with the process of eminent domain to take title to the former HNA Palisades Premier Training Center on Route 9W in Palisades.

Even so, they’re still hoping HNA and a prospective developer will reach terms on a sale because the town does not genuinely want to undertake the long and arduous process of taking the 106-acre property.

The town on Tuesday closed its public hearing on the taking of the property. No one from the audience spoke except David Cooper of Zarin & Steinmetz, the outside counsel representing the town on this matter.

“The litigation between HNA and SL Green goes on,” he said, referring to HNA’s legal battle with creditors. “There’s no progress on the sale. It’s in limbo and it may be getting worse.”

He recommended to the Board that it close the public hearing and move forward to start the “90-day clock and collect findings.”

New York Law requires the Town publish the taking of the property within 90 days of the closing of the public hearing. The property owner also receives statutory notice. If and when Orangetown publishes, HNA can file a lawsuit in the appellate division of the Rockland County Supreme Court within 30 days if it opposes the action.

If the town condemns the property, REVEIL, the California developers who’ve been tapped to redevelop the site, would not be bound by the contract it negotiated with HNA, but the developer would have the option to participate in the project going forward.

The law also requires the town to pay “just compensation,” which is equivalent to fair market value. The value is determined when the town acquires the property, meaning a previous appraisal on the HNA site would be irrelevant. The town will conduct its own appraisal, and if the property owner is dissatisfied, it can file a claim with the New York State Court of Claims in Albany and submit a competing appraisal.

Town Supervisor Teresa Kenny has previously said that this would mark the first time the board has endeavored to take a property by eminent domain, and she has not been shy about expressing her reluctance. Nevertheless, the HNA property is deteriorating and blighted and has become a public hazard.

At the first public hearing in February, Kenny had said the issue was “coming to a head” because the property, which the town has been deemed “unsafe and dangerous” has become a public safety hazard. The deteriorating property has been slapped with a series of violations for lack of maintenance. There has been a petroleum spill, sinkholes, impassable roads making it difficult for emergency vehicles to access the property, leaking fire hydrants, burst pipes and a dumping ground for illegal fill. He also said the property has become a target for vandals and trespassers, necessitating several police calls.

Over the past two years, the former IBM property has been in flux while Reveil, a team of California developers has attempted to purchase the site. Reveil was tapped by the town nearly two years ago to re-imagine the large parcel, which is now zoned for hotels/conference centers, office, professional uses, and research labs. The town’s involvement in steering a new future began after a pending sale for the property for $40 million fell through.

Reveil, which envisions an updated hotel and conference center, glamping, event spaces, a working farm, test kitchens, co-working, and 20 to 30 townhouses, and HNA have yet to reach terms for a sale. Sources have told RCBJ that Reveil has offered HNA $33 million for the site.

“Under the MOU (memorandum of understanding), Reveil has committed to covering the town’s costs incurred in the exercise of its eminent domain authority, including the preparation of an appraisal should the process continue to move forward,” Cooper said.