Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

GIBBS-ALFANO v. OSSINING BOAT & CANOE CLUB

May 3, 1999

KATHLEEN GIBBS-ALFANO AND THOMAS ALFANO, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE OSSINING BOAT & CANOE CLUB, INC., RAYMOND PERRON, JOHN J. D'EMIDIO, PETER GENDRON, ELIZABETH FELDMAN, ANDREW BROWN, GARY SCHERER, MICHAEL SCARDUZIO, WILLIAM BURTON, EDWARD WHEELER, SUE POVERMAN, MICHAEL O'CONNOR AND GEOFFREY HARTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMAHON, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM DECISION DENYING
  DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS PLAINTIFFS' CLAIMS
  UNDER 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 1983, 2000(a) AND THE NEW
  YORK HUMAN RIGHTS LAW, AND GRANTING THE MOTIONS TO
  DISMISS PLAINTIFFS' CLAIMS UNDER 42 U.S.C. § 1985

The plaintiffs are an interracial couple who claim to have been expelled from membership in the Ossining Boat & Canoe Club, Mrs. Gibbs-Alfano in 1995 and her husband Thomas Alfano in 1997. They claim that racial animus towards Mrs. Gibbs-Alfano, who is African American, was the motivating factor behind their expulsion. Plaintiffs brought this action against the Boat Club and seven of its trustees (collectively, the "Boat Club defendants"), and the Ossining Town Supervisor and four members of the Ossining Town Board (collectively, the "Town defendants"). They assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 1983, 1985 and 2000(a), and a pendent state law claim under the New York Human Rights Law.

Both groups of defendants have moved to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims in their entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The motions are denied. Drawing all reasonable inferences from the allegations in the complaint, as I must on a motion to dismiss, it does not appear beyond doubt that the plaintiffs can prove no set of facts in support of their claims which would entitle them to relief.

Background

The Ossining Boat & Canoe Club is a non-profit corporation located on Westerly Road in the Town of Ossining, in an area commonly referred to as Louis Engel Waterfront Park. The Boat Club is operated on property licensed from the Town of Ossining pursuant to a License Agreement dated January 1, 1991 (the "License" or "Agreement"). The License for use of the property, originally for a five year term, was renewed in September 1995 for an additional five years, to end December 31, 2001.

The membership of the Boat Club consists of the duly elected members of the Board of Trustees and as many other members as the Club is able to accommodate subject to the physical space limitations of the Club's facilities. (License Agreement ¶¶ 6, 7.) Vacancies in membership are filled from a waiting list, in strict order by date of application. Under the terms and conditions of the License the Boat Club is specifically granted "the right to reject any applicant or to terminate the membership of any individual if such individual is a danger to the health, safe, or welfare of the [Club] or any of its members," provided such termination is not based upon consideration of "[r]ace, creed, color, national origin or sex." (License Agreement ¶¶ 7, 21.) The License states that the Club "shall at all times be represented by its duly elected Board of Trustees." (License Agreement ¶ 6)

Plaintiffs Thomas Alfano and Kathleen Gibbs-Alfano became members of
the Ossining Boat & Canoe Club in 1988. In October 1994, Mrs.Gibbs-Alano
was "suspended" from the Club for using foul language during an incident
that took place at the Club. (Cplt. ¶¶ 28, 30.) Although the
complaint does not say so, the suspension must have been lifted, because
one year later, in October 1995, Mrs. Gibbs-Alfano was suspended again,
following another incident between her and other members of the Club.
(Cplt.¶ 31.) The Boat Club apparently did not proffer a specific
reason for the second action against the plaintiff Plaintiffs' contention
is that both suspension were motivated by racial bias against Mrs.
Gibbs-Alfano and disapproval of the interracial marriage of the
plaintiffs. (Cplt.¶ 27.) Plaintiffs allege that the Boat club
trustees tolerated the use of foul language by other members of the
Club, who are white, yet they suspended Mrs. Gibbs-Alfano for using foul
language. (Cplt.30.) Plaintiffs also allege that the trustees knew of and
condoned hostile racially discriminatory conduct directed at Mrs.
Gibbs-Alfano including the conduct that precipitated the incidents
leading to her two  suspensions. (Cplt.30, 31.) The Boat Club has not
lifted the second suspension of plaintiff Gibbs-Alfano, and thus
plaintiff has effectively been expelled from membership.

In May 1996, Mrs. Gibbs-Alfano wrote to the Town of Ossining Board to lodge a complaint about the allegedly discriminatory and illegal actions taken by the Boat Club when it suspended her and failed to revoke that suspension. Plaintiff directed her complaint to defendant William Burton, the Ossining Town Supervisor. Plaintiff received no formal response from Mr. Burton or from any other representative of the Town; however she claims she was informed by defendant Michael O'Connor -then a Town Councilman-that the Town's attorneys were "reviewing [the complaint]." (Cplt. ¶ 43.)

In September 1997, Mr. Alfano met with his own difficulties at the Boat Club when "the Boat Club Defendants purported to expel Thomas Alfano from the [] Club." (Cplt.¶ 47.) The Boat Club failed to provide a reason for Mr. Alfano's suspension and has not lifted the suspension. Plaintiffs assert that Mr. Alfano's de facto expulsion from the Club is a result of the same racial bias against his wife and disapproval of their marriage that led to Mrs. Gibbs-Alfano's expulsion two years earlier.

Additionally, the complaint states that, in contravention of the Club's By-Laws, neither plaintiff was given written charges, notice of the charges, or an opportunity to defend against the charges against them before being suspended from the Boat Club. (Cplt.¶¶ 29, 31, 47.)

Standard of Review

The standard of review on a motion to dismiss is heavily weighted in favor, of the plaintiff. The Court is required to read the complaint generously, drawing all reasonable inferences from the complaint's allegations. California Motor Transport Co. v. Tracking Unlimited, 404 U.S. 508, 515, 92 S.Ct. 609, 30 L.Ed.2d 642 (1972). "In ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court is required to accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true." Frasier v. General Electric Co., 930 F.2d 1004, 1007 (2d Cir. 1991). The Court must deny the motion "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.