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COMMUNITY HOUSING MANAGEMENT CORP. v. CITY OF NEW ROCHELLE

August 5, 2005.

COMMUNITY HOUSING MANAGEMENT CORP., INC., CARRINGTON ARMS HOUSING DEVELOPMENT FUND COMPANY, INC. LINCOLN TOWERS HOUSING DEVELOPMENT, FUND CORPORATION, HUGUENOT HOUSING ASSOCIATES, LLC WASHINGTON HOUSE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT FUND CORPORATION, MAPLE CENTER LIMITED PROFIT HOUSING DEVELOPMENT FUND COMPANY, INC., JEAN ANDERSON, and ROBERT RICE, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK and THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK, Defendants.



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

DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

Plaintiffs Community Housing Management Corp., Inc. ("CHMC"), Carrington Arms Housing Development Fund Company, Inc. ("Carrington Arms"), Lincoln Towers Housing Development Fund Corporation ("Lincoln Towers"), Huguenot Housing Associates, LLC ("Huguenot House"), Washington House Housing Development Fund ("Washington House"), Maple Center Limited Profit Housing Company, Inc. ("Maple Center"), Maple Terrace Housing Development Fund Company, Inc. (Maple Terrace"), Jean Anderson, and Robert Rice (collectively, "plaintiffs") own, operate, and occupy low-income and senior occupied apartment buildings in New Rochelle, New York. Collectively, they brought an action to set aside, as applied to them, a "user fee" imposed by the City of New Rochelle (the "City") for costs allegedly associated with refuse collection and disposal ("refuse fee"). Plaintiffs sought to avoid the compulsory refuse fee on the basis that they do not use the City's sanitation service, but rather wish to continue the private sanitation contracts as they have for the last twelve years.

Plaintiffs brought this action against defendants City and the City Council of the City of New Rochelle (the "City Council") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 claiming a deprivation of their rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Commerce Clause, Art. I, Sec. 8, the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq., and multiple state causes of action.

  Plaintiff moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 56, and defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), or in the alternative, for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, I grant the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and dismiss without prejudice both parties' motions for summary judgment as moot.

  I. Facts

  The facts alleged as per the Complaint, are as follows:

  CHMC is a New York Corporation responsible for the operation of low and moderate income housing properties including Carrington Arms, Lincoln Towers, Huguenot House, Washington House, Maple Center, and Maple Terrace, each of which are apartment buildings (multi-family dwellings) in New Rochelle. Cplt. ¶¶ 4; 15-26. These plaintiffs are in the business of operating low-income, moderate-income, and senior housing developments in the City. Cplt. ¶ 110. Plaintiffs receive federal funding for the operation of their developments and are in turn limited in the amount of rent they can charge defendants. Cplt. ¶ 111.

  Jean Anderson and Robert Rice are both New Rochelle residents who are tenants in one or more of these apartment buildings and who pay rent to the owners for the housing, services, and facilities. Cplt. ¶¶ 29, 31.

  Like any apartment building, the residents of these buildings — including Anderson and Rice — generate solid waste, refuse, and trash, which the property operators need to have removed from the premises. Cplt. ¶¶ 27-29. The City of New Rochelle provides solid waste, refuse, and trash collection services, including recyclables to some, but not all, property owners in the City. Cplt. ¶ 32.

  Prior to January 1, 2004, the City levied taxes against all non-exempt property owners within the City to finance the cost of trash collection services. Cplt. ¶ 38. With the exception of Hugeunot House, all plaintiffs were tax-exempt property owners or were tax-exempt property owners but remitted payments to the City pursuant to a Payments-In-Lieu-Of-Tax-Agreement ("PILOT"). Cplt. ¶ 39. Hugeunot House paid taxes to the City — like any ordinary property owner — part of which was presumably used to fund the cost of the trash collection services provided to New Rochelle residents. Cplt. ¶ 40.

  At all relevant times, prior to January 1, 2004, defendants did not provide trash collection services to plaintiffs at their respective premises. Cplt. ¶ 41. Plaintiffs claim that defendants could not provide adequate trash collection services. Cplt. ¶ 42.

  Because defendants could not provide plaintiffs with adequate trash removal services, the owners and operators of Carrington Arms, Lincoln Towers, Huguenot House, Washington House, Maple Center, and Maple Terrace, entered into written contracts with a private carter for the removal of solid waste, refuse, and trash generated by the operations' residential tenants, and others at plaintiffs' respective properties. Cplt. ¶ 44. Pursuant to these contracts, plaintiffs must remit a monetary sum — to the private carter — on a monthly basis for the trash collection services. Cplt. ¶ 45.

  On or about November 18, 2003, the City resolved that it would hold a public hearing on December 9, 2003, on a proposed Local Law to "establish residential refuse fees and providing for the lien and collection thereof." Cplt. ¶ 48. And on or about December 29, 2003, the City Council enacted Local Law 13, entitled "Local Law Intro No . . . adopting a new subsection 163-20.C to Article IV of Chapter 163, Garbage, Rubbish and Refuse of the City Code to establish residential refuse fees and providing for the lien and collection thereof" (hereinafter "Local Law 13"). Cplt. ¶ 49.

  Pursuant to Local Law 13, the City Council established "Residential Refuse Fees to defray the cost of collection, transportation, and disposal of solid waste and recyclables from improved real properties containing dwelling units in the City." Cplt. ¶ 50. The law became effective on January 1, 2004. Cplt. ¶ 53. Plaintiffs allege that Local Law 13 was actually adopted as a pretext to defray the City's increased pension and retirement costs. Cplt. ¶ 50.

  Defendants enacted Local Law 13 and Section 133-1 (collectively, the "refuse fee") as a means of establishing a locally controlled revenue source because the State of New York limited defendants' ability to raise property taxes to no more than the increase in the Consumer Price Index. Cplt. ¶ 63. According to at least one City official, defendants would reconsider the refuse fee if the State provided more general funding to New Rochelle. Cplt. ¶ 64. The refuse fee for each improved property is determined on a yearly basis by multiplying the number of dwelling units on each tax assessment lot (as shown in the most current tax assessment roll and records of the City Assessor) by the Per Unit Residential Refuse Fee set forth in Chapter 133 of the City Code. Cplt. ¶ 51. The refuse fee is imposed on plaintiffs regardless of whether or not they actually use defendants' refuse collection services. Cplt. ¶ 65.

  Local Law 13 and Section 133-1 provide that the collection and enforcement of the residential refuse fee shall be collected and enforced in the same manner and at the same time as City of New Rochelle real property taxes. Cplt. ¶ 62. Pursuant to Local Law 13, "If a Residential Refuse Fee including accrued interest thereon is not fully paid on or before November 30 of the calendar year for which originally billed, the unpaid amount shall, pursuant to the procedures set forth in the Section 120-cc of the General Municipal Law, become a lien as of January 1 of the next succeeding year and shall accrue additional ...


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