Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. Obtains Injunction to Prevent Townhouse Renovations That Violated Adjacent Owners’ Right to Due Process

By Joanna C. Peck

new york townhouse

When the owners of a townhouse sought Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.’s help after the owner of the adjacent townhouse notified them that they intended to perform an extensive renovation to substantially expand the footprint and height of their townhouse, Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. successfully obtained an injunction preventing the adjacent owner from performing any demolition and/or construction activities on the townhouse for over a six month period by arguing that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission had violated the owners’ right to due process, and had acted outside of its jurisdictional authority when it approved the adjacent construction.

By way of background, the adjacent owner had submitted plans to substantially renovate and expand the size of the townhouse to the Commission. A public hearing was held before the Commission, at which the owner and members of the community were permitted to testify. The attorneys at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. also testified at the hearing, and demonstrated to the Commission that the adjacent owner had misrepresented the visibility of the proposed rooftop and rear extension from the street, a key concern in the Landmarks district. The attorneys also emphasized to the Commission that the public had inadequate notice of the proposed renovations to the townhouse, and the impact such renovations would have on the community. The attorneys concluded their testimony by requesting the Commission to leave the record open to provide the public with an opportunity to more fully analyze the proposed construction, and submit additional information and testimony to the Commission regarding the impact such construction would have on the community.

The Commission agreed with Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C., and mandated that the adjacent owner make substantial revisions to the proposal, including completely eliminating the rooftop addition, scaling back the rear yard extensions, and redesigning the rear façade of the townhouse. The Commission also granted the attorneys request that the record concerning the proposal be left open to permit additional submissions by the public.

Using a grass-roots approach, the attorneys at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. organized over two dozen community owners, activists, and architects to testify at a local Community Board hearing against the revised proposal submitted by the adjacent owner. The Community Board agreed with the testimony, and unanimously voted against the proposal by the adjacent owner, and urged that the Commission deny the revised application.

Next, the public meeting was held before the Commission. However, unlike the public hearing, the attorneys and the public were not permitted to testify, a clear violation of the right to due process. The Commission approved the second proposal, notwithstanding the substantial changes between the first and revised proposal, and the unanimous vote by the local Community Board against the revised proposal.

The attorneys at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. then acted quickly to stop the adjacent construction. Researching the Landmarks Preservations Commission’s rules, and relevant New York State statutes and case law, the attorneys concluded that not only had their clients’ right to due process been violated by the Commission’s intentional failure to permit testimony at the public meeting, but that the Commission had repeatedly operated outside its jurisdictional authority, and had violated its own rules in approving the revised proposal concerning the adjacent townhouse.

Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. then brought an action, and sought an injunction, arguing that due process had been violated, that the adjacent owner did not comply with the Commission’s direction to modify the proposal, and that the Commission did not follow its own rules. The Court granted an injunction, which remained in effect for six months while the parties worked out an agreement satisfactory to all.

Adam Leitman Bailey, Jeffrey R. Metz, and Joanna C. Peck represented the townhouse owners in the case.

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