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Developer Bill Helmer and Nyack Architect Drazen Cackovic Have Been Engaged In Ongoing Litigation Over Condo Project For Years; Site Remains A Big Hole
By Tina Traster
What the heck is going on with that waterfront project?
That question has been puzzling the folks of Nyack and the development community at large for nearly six years. Now some concrete answers may be coming given that the hard-won Gedney Street approvals, which included a controversial fight over a text amendment to the zoning code, lapsed in late March.
For more than three years, Stony Point developer Bill Helmer and Nyack architect Drazen Cackovic, have been engaged in ongoing litigation over the TZ Vista project, later renamed Tidewater, and now generally called the Gedney Street project.
While the pair have been battling over how the property should be the developed and who will develop the 3.8-acre lot at 55 Gedney Street, the planned riverfront condo plan has lain fallow. This surprises many who bore witness to a cutthroat fight that played out between 2015 and 2017 until the pair were finally granted land use approvals to build the 128-unit condo complex in three multi-story buildings.
The development had been expected to break ground in the fall of 2021.
“They would have to start the process again,” said Nyack Mayor Don Hammond, referring to the developers. “The developers would need to submit a new application to the Land Use boards.”
The litigation began in January of 2020 with Cackovic filing suit against Bill Helmer, Helmer-Cronin, Inc, and Foot of Main, LLC which owns one of the parcels making up the 3.8 acres waterfront property. Cackovic made accusations claiming Helmer failed to fulfill his contractual obligations, breaches of fiduciary duty, withholding information and self-dealing, including the failure to transfer a parcel of property to the LLC as required by the LLC’s operating agreement.
Helmer filed counterclaims with accusations of improper and inflated charges, breach of fiduciary duties, failure to abide by the operating agreement, and a request for the court to dissolve the partnership, which was denied.
Two years later in January of 2022, the Court ordered Helmer to transfer the Foot of Main property and Helmer appealed. Since then, the parties have been battling back and forth as to who has the right to buy the other out and for how much, with no apparent resolution in sight. In July of 2022, Justice Berliner ruled that a proposed offer to sell the property to Cackovic was rejected when Cackovic’s acceptance was ruled a counter-offer instead of an acceptance.
Since then, the parties continue to argue over the transfer of the property, attorney’s fees and control of the LLC.
While the litigation enters its third year, the Village of Nyack notified the LLC on April 4, 2023 that all of its land use approvals expired and that the Special Permit approved by the Village Board was “null and void.” The letter informs the LLC that it also failed to provide required construction documents and pay the necessary fees to the Village.
According to the court file, an offer to purchase the property for $14.5 million dollars was made to the LLC by Hudson Park Group, LLC, the developer whose project at Letchworth Village in Stony Point was rejected by voters in a referendum last November.
After Justice Berliner resigned from the bench, the case was reassigned to Justice Amy Puerto.
The Gedney Street project is a former Superfund site, but it is also the last major undeveloped waterfront property in Nyack. The property is situated between the Clermont Condominiums and the Nyack Boat Yard.
A manufactured gas plant operated from 1852 until 1965 to provide gas for lighting and heating. One of the byproducts was coal tar, a hazardous and carcinogenic substance that seeped into the soil and water. Orange and Rockland Utilities spent $23.7 million cleaning up sections of the fenced-off Superfund site between 2005-07 and 2014-15.
Six years ago, the proposal unleashed a high-pitched battle between a group that didn’t want the development and those who believed it would stimulate the local economy.
In September 2017, the Nyack Village Board voted in favor of approving a Special Permit for the Gedney Street Project which included a raft of conditions to which the builder has agreed: a bond to guarantee completion of the public park; transferring ownership of the park to the Village of Nyack; minor modifications to the buildings’ appearance.
Over the past several years, the developers have been cited for violations. Nyack is underway with a housing boom; the Village, particularly since COVID, has been trying to maintain its vibrancy. Its comprehensive plan calls for additional market-rate housing to keep the local economy humming.
RCBJ reached out to Cackovic and the Helmers but neither responded to an email seeking comment.