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The Legal Beat: A Fifteen Year Property Dispute Ends With A Sale Of Nine-Plus Acres In New Hempstead

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Property Subdivided off New York Golf Club Sells For $4 Million; Both the Golf Course & Adjacent Parcel Slated For Redevelopment

Legal Analysis

A fifteen year dispute that included nine years of litigation was resolved in the final days of 2023 when New York Golf Enterprises, Inc. transferred a 9.28 acre parcel of land in Spring Valley to Union Village, LLC. The parcel, subdivided off the New York Country Club’s golf course at 103 Brick Church Road, was sold to Union Village for $4 million. The street address for the property is 618 Union Road and sits in the Village of New Hempstead.

The saga began back in December of 2008, when Alan Gestetner and the New York Golf Enterprises (NYGE) entered into a written contract to sell the 9-plus acre parcel after it was subdivided off the larger 160 acres where NYGE operated its golf course.

The original agreement called for a $250,000 down payment and an additional $750,000 payment upon subdivision approval. Those payments weren’t made, but Gestetner did make two smaller payments of $25,000 each shortly after the contract was signed.

Things took a turn for the worse in 2009 when NYGE cut off contact with Gestetner. Starting in 2014, Gestetner filed several lawsuits in Rockland County Supreme Court, and argued the contract was still valid, that it was orally modified and enforceable. Gestetner said that NYGE agreed to accept periodic payments of $25,000 each until the subdivision of the land was approved, and upon approval, Gestetner would pay the balance due against the $250,000, plus the additional $750,000.

Gestetner sought “specific performance” – meaning he asked the Court to compel NYGE to sell him the land in accordance with the terms of the modified oral contract

NYGE fought back, saying enforcement of the contract was barred by the Statute of Frauds – which doesn’t have anything to do with fraud – but is a legal doctrine that says that contracts for the sale of real property have to be in writing to be enforceable.  The exception, relied on by Gestetner, was that the original contract was partially performed and that the oral agreement was therefore binding and enforceable.

Rockland County Justice Sherri Eisenpress agreed with Gestetner, found the oral modification valid and enforceable, and in 2020 ordered NYGE to sell the land to Gestetner in accordance with that oral agreement.

A stay was entered allowing NYGE to pursue an appeal, which it did with the Appellate Division, 2nd Department (the appellate court that reviews decisions from Rockland County). The appeals court in May of 2023 reversed Justice Eisenpress’s order and dismissed Gestetner’s complaint.

Ordinarily that would be the end of the case, but in an usual turn of events given the length of time this has persisted, the parties reached an agreement – a stipulated settlement fifteen years after the original contract was signed.

And then, another twist.

The agreement allowed Gestetner to assign his rights in the contract to another entity. That assignee was given the right to purchase the property for $4 million. It was required to pay $750,000 within 30 days of the agreement, and the balance at closing (less the $50,000 already received), provided that closing occurred before December 31, 2023, at risk of default.

The agreement also ended the pending litigation between the parties.

On December 29, 2023, the parties closed the deal.

The buyer, Union Village, LLC is owned and managed by Berel Karniol, a frequent investor and developer of real property in Rockland County. The expected use is senior housing.

Earlier this year, NYGE sold the golf course, containing almost 150 acres at 103 Brick Church Road in New Hempstead to Monsey-based 103 Brick Church, LLC for $35 million. A proposal pending before the Village of New Hempstead is asking to have the golf course re-zoned to R-10 which would allow for 344 single family homes on the property. Existing ponds and wetlands on the property would be preserved.

The golf course’s previous owner proposed a development plan with the Village that included a mix of housing types under the Village’s optimized cluster development program. That plan never advanced.