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Gym Door Repairs, Inc. v. New York City Department of Education

United States District Court, S.D. New York

November 3, 2014

GYM DOOR REPAIRS, INC. and SAFEPATH SYSTEMS LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DENNIS M. WALCOTT, as Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, NEW YORK CITY SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY, THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE NEW YORK CITY SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY, THE CITY OF NEW YORK, JOHN T. SHEA, as chief Executive Officer of New York City Department of Education Division of School Facilities, VOLKERT BRAREN, as Director of Program Management of NYCDOE, CHRIS COYLE, as Construction Project Manager of New York City Department of Education, CHRIS D'ALIMONTE, as Borough Contract Manager of New York City Department of Education, THOMAS FANIZZI, as Manhattan Maintenance Planner of New York City Department of Education and Division of School Facilities and JOHN DOE NUMBERS 1 through 5, whose names are not presently unknown, as agents, servants and employees of THE CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendants.

CALCAGNI & KANEFSKY, THE NEW JERSEY OFFICE OF HARRIS, O'BRIEN, ST. LAURENT & CHAUDHRY, LLP Newark, NJ, Eric T. Kanefsky, Esq., Attorneys for Plaintiffs.

ZACHARY W. CARTER, Scott Glotzer, Esq., Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, New York, NY, Attorneys for Defendants.

OPINION

ROBERT W. SWEET, District Judge.

Defendants, New York City Department of Education ("DOE"), New York City School Construction Authority ("NYCSCA"), The City of New York ("City" and collectively "Municipal Defendants"), and The Board of Trustees of NYCSCA, Dennis M. Walcott, John T. Shea, Volkert Braren, Chris Coyle, Chris D'Alimonte, Thomas Fanizzi, as employees of DOE (sued only in their official capacities) ("Individual Defendants" and, together with Municipal Defendants, "Defendants"), have moved for Judgment on the Pleadings with respect to the complaint ("Complaint") of plaintiffs Gym Door Repairs, Inc. ("GDRI") and Safepath Systems LLC ("SSL" and collectively, "Plaintiffs"), on the grounds that Plaintiffs have not alleged the existence of an unconstitutional municipal policy, that the lack of a preexisting commercial relationship between Plaintiffs and Defendants bars Plaintiffs' First Amendment retaliation claim, and that the basis for injunctive relief has not been established, pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon the conclusions set forth below, the motion is granted.

Prior Proceedings

Plaintiffs filed this Section 1983 action on October 1, 2012, seeking compensatory damages and injunctive relief for the deprivation of Plaintiffs' procedural due process, substantive due process, and First Amendment rights. Upon the Defendants' motion to dismiss, this Court dismissed the Complaint on September 10, 2013. Plaintiffs appealed and, by Summary Order dated April 30, 2014, the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the procedural and substantive due process claims, and vacated the dismissal of Plaintiffs' First Amendment retaliation claim. See Safepath Sys. LLC v. New York City Dep't of Educ., 563 F.App'x 851, 855 (2d Cir. 2014). The Second Circuit remanded for further consideration of Plaintiffs' claim for injunctive relief. See id. at *857.

The Complaint sets forth the following allegations: In 2001, the New York State legislature enacted Education Law § 409-f (the "Statute") in response to the death of two students resulting from accidents involving electrically operated partitions used in school gyms. Compl. ¶ 15. The Statute mandated that

Every electrically operated partition or room divider shall be equipped with safety devices which, subject to standards established in rules and regulations promulgated by the commissioner, stop the forward motion of the partition or room divider... when a body passes between the leading panel of such divider and a wall, or when a body is in the stacking area of such partition or divider.

N.Y. Educ. L. § 409-f.

In furtherance of the Statute, the New York State Education Department promulgated and implemented Commissioner's Regulation § 155.25 (the "Regulation"), which required, inter alia, that the safety equipment installed pursuant to the Statue "shall not be tampered with, overridden or by-passed" and "must be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, including the manufacturer's recommended service interval...." Compl. ¶ 17.

Plaintiffs are manufacturers, installers and service contractors of a door safety system called the Safepath System ("SPS" or the "System"), which is designed to prevent accidents involving electrically operated partition doors. In or around 2007, NYCSCA, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of New York City's school facilities, issued the New York City School Construction Authority Manual (the "Specifications"), setting forth details and instructions regarding the design, construction and maintenance of electrically operated partitions in the City's schools. Section 4(a) of the Specifications mandated that "[t]he infra-red safety detection system shall be "Safe-Path" as manufactured by [GORI]...."

Although there are more than 1, 000 electrically operated partitions that require a door safety system pursuant to the Statute, Plaintiffs have not installed their Safepath System in more than half of those locations. Id . ¶¶ 41-44. Moreover, the Safepath Systems that have been installed have not been regularly inspected, serviced, repaired and/or maintained exclusively by Plaintiffs. Id . ¶¶45-46.

Beginning in 2004, Plaintiffs repeatedly advised Defendants concerning their alleged property interest vested by the Statute, Regulation and Specifications, and demanded that Defendants adhere to the requirements of these mandates by exclusively utilizing Plaintiffs' products and services. Id . ¶¶ 48-57. Defendants rejected these demands. Id . ¶ 61.

After unsuccessfully seeking redress from the New York City Department of Investigations and the New York State Attorney General's Office, in March 2011 Plaintiffs commenced a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 78 (the "Article 78 Action") in which they sought to compel Defendants to recognize their alleged property interest and enforce the Defendants' compliance with the Statute and the Regulation. Id . ¶¶ 63-65. The New York ...


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