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Brody v. Village of Port Chester

March 7, 2007

WILLIAM BRODY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VILLAGE OF PORT CHESTER, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harold Baer, Jr., District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff William Brody ("Plaintiff" or "Brody"), in this long-running litigation to challenge the taking of his property, brings, pursuant to his Amended Complaint of August 28, 2006, constitutional claims against Defendants Village of Port Chester (the "Village"), G&S Port Chester LLC ("G&S"), Village of Port Chester Industrial Development Agency ("Village IDA"), and Hudson United Bank Co. ("Hudson") (collectively, "Defendants"). Brody alleges, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of procedural due process and equal protection by Defendants relating to the condemnation of his property by the Village under N.Y. E.D.P.L. § 201 et. seq.

Defendants now move for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c), on the grounds that 1) the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this entire action under Rooker-Feldman doctrine; 2) Plaintiff's claims for damages and revestment of title are barred by res judicata or collateral estoppel; 3) certain of Plaintiff's procedural due process claims are barred by res judicata or law of the case doctrine; and 4) Plaintiff's equal protection claim fails on its merits.*fn1

For the reasons articulated below, Defendants' motion is denied in part and granted in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Familiarity is assumed with facts and prior opinions in this litigation.*fn2 A brief recounting of the facts germane to this motion follows.

A. The Village's Condemnation of Brody's Property

In 1996, Plaintiff William Brody purchased commercial property in an area of the Village of Port Chester that had long been slated for redevelopment. See Brody v. Village of Port Chester, 434 F.3d 121, 124 (2d Cir. 2005) ("Brody III"). On May 22, 1999, the Village published notice in the local newspaper, the Journal News, of a series of concurrent public hearings on the redevelopment project. See Brody's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings ("Pl. Opp."), at 1. The Village also sent personal notice to Brody by certified mail, although Brody claims that he never saw it. Brody III at 124. Defendants state that the notice (had Brody received it) stated the time, place, and subject matter of the hearings, and cited applicable portions of the New York Eminent Domain Procedure Law ("E.D.P.L."). Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings ("Def. Mot."), at 4. Brody avers that the hearing notice "did not indicate that the hearing had any significance for challenging the possible future condemnation of Brody's property, nor did it indicate that the hearing was. related to the opportunity to challenge condemnations judicially." Pl. Opp. at 2.

On June 7, 1999, the Village held a public hearing to discuss the public use, local impact, and necessity of the redevelopment project, as required by N.Y. E.D.P.L. § 201.

See Brody III, 434 F.3d at 124. Brody attended and commented publicly. See Brody v. Village of Port Chester, 345 F.3d 103, 106 (2d Cir. 2003) ("Brody II"). Brody contends that at this first hearing, "attendees were told that no final decisions on condemnation would be made in the near future," that property owners "need not take any action," and that he was given "no indication that this hearing would deprive him of any rights." Pl. Opp. at 2.

Shortly after this first hearing, the Village published notice of a second public use hearing, to be held on July 6, 1999. Brody II, 345 F.3d at 106.*fn3 Brody claims to have received no actual notice of this second hearing. It is undisputed he did not attend. Id., see also Pl. Opp. at 2. Brody's comments at the first public hearing were incorporated into the record of this July 6, 1999 hearing. Brody III, 434 F.3d at 125.

On July 18 and 19, 1999, the Village published a synopsis of its Determination and Findings regarding the redevelopment project. Brody III, 434 F.3d at 125. This publication commences the exclusive thirty-day period under which an affected property owner may seek judicial review of the Village's determination of, inter alia, the constitutionality of public use. Id., citing N.Y. E.D.P.L. §§ 204, 207(A).*fn4 Brody avers that the synopsis did not mention that he had 30 days from the date of its publication to challenge condemnation. Pl. Opp. at 2.

In any event, Brody claims that he never saw this published synopsis of the Village's Determination and Findings. Brody did not file for judicial review of the condemnation within the 30-day period and thus lost his opportunity for a judicial determination challenging the condemnation on constitutional or statutory grounds. Brody III, 434 F.3d at 125; Pl. Opp. at 2.

B. Brody's State Court Action

On April 25, 2000, the Village filed a petition in state court pursuant to N.Y. E.D.P.L. § 402 to acquire title to the redevelopment project area, which included Brody's property. Brody III, 434 F.3d at 125. On May 17, 2000, Brody challenged the petition and interposed several affirmative defenses. The defenses related exclusively to compensation, as Brody's counsel correctly informed him that arguments against the constitutionality of public use were barred by N.Y. E.D.P.L. § 208. Id. On November 8, 2000, New York state Supreme Court granted the Village's petition to acquire title, on the condition that the Village make Brody an offer for compensation within sixty days as required by Article 3 of the EDPL. See In the Matter of the Village of Port Chester, No. 006448/00 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Nov. 8, 2000) (Palella, J.), attached to Declaration of Brian Belowich ("Belowich Decl."), Dec. 11, 2006, Ex. A. Brody did not appeal this Order.

In May 2002, Brody and the Village entered into an agreement under Article 3 of the EDPL pursuant to which Brody received an advance payment of $1.8 million as compensation for the taking of his property. Brody II at 107. On July 11, 2002, Brody filed a claim for damages against the Village in state court, seeking $5 million plus interest for the fair market value of the property. Id. On January 24, 2006, New York state Supreme Court awarded Brody $2.57 million (less the $1.8 million already paid to him) as just compensation for the taking of his property, pursuant to Article 5 of the EDPL. See In the Matter of the Village of Port Chester, No. 006448/00 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Jan. 26, 2006) (Rosato, J.). Brody has appealed that order. His appeal remains pending. See Def. Mot. at 3.

C. Brody's Federal Court Action

1. "Brody I"

Meanwhile, on October 4, 2000, Brody commenced this lawsuit in federal court. Among other things, Brody alleged that due process required the Village to provide him with personal notice of the public use hearings and of the Village's Determinations and Findings. Brody v. Village of Port Chester, 261 F.3d 288, 289-90 (2d Cir. 2001) ("Brody I"). This Court preliminarily enjoined the Village from proceeding further with the condemnation of Brody's property. Minnich v. Gargano, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 372 (S.D.N.Y. 2001). The Second Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction and remanded to this Court. Brody I, 261 F.3d at 291. In doing so, the Second Circuit found that Brody received actual notice of the ...


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