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Abramson v. Gettel

United States District Court, S.D. New York

November 25, 2014

JERYL ABRAMSON and YASGUR ROAD PRODUCTIONS, LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
BETTE JEAN GETTEL, GREGG SEMENETZ, DANIEL STURM, and the TOWN OF BETHEL, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

NELSON S. ROMN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Jeryl Abramson and Yasgur Road Productions, LLC ("Yasgur Road, " and together with Abramson, "Plaintiffs") commenced this action by complaint filed April 4, 2014, against defendants Bette Jean Gettel, Gregg Semenetz, Daniel Stmm, and the Town of Bethel (the "Town, " and together with individual defendants, "Defendants"). Plaintiffs bring the action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants deprived Plaintiffs of their right to equal protection of law as guaranteed by the Fomteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. More specifically, Plaintiffs (a purported "class of one") contend that Defendants enforced Town land use laws in a manner that penalized Plaintiffs and harmed their financial interests, while according more lenient treatment to a competing entertainment and conceit-hosting business, G&B Real Property LLC ("G&B"). Yasgur Road and G&B have hosted a series of reunion concerts over the years commemorating the legendary Woodstock festival of 1969.

Defendants now move to dismiss the complaint in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5) and (6), for insufficient service of process and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the motion and dismisses this action in its entirety.

I. COMPLAINT & BACKGROUND

A. Historical Perspective

Plaintiff Jeryl Abramson is either the former spouse, or the former partner, of Roy Howard. Abramson and Howard purchased a particular 100-acre plot of land in Sullivan County, New York from Max Yasgur in or about 1971. This plot of land, a portion of the renowned "Yasgur Farm, " brought with it a significant piece of rock-and-roll history:

On short notice, in August 1969, Mr. Yasgur leased a 300-acre alfalfa field to the organizers of the Woodstock music festival. And that, in the shorthand of all the notions and emotions generated there on his trampled field, became Woodstock. The festival was named for the town 75 miles away where it was originally to be held, and from which it had to be rerouted at the last minute because of permit problems.

A Beloved Woodstock Nation Site Goes on Sale, for $8 Million, N.Y. Times, Aug. 12, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/nyregion/12woodstock.html.

Yasgur is known to have clashed with the nearby Town of Bethel in the days leading up to Woodstock and in the years following the concert as he liquidated his interest in the property. See Max Yasgur Dies; Woodstock Festival Was on His Farm, N.Y. Times, Feb. 10, 1973. Neighbors turned against him and sued for area property damage. The Town took issue with his use of the land for entertainment purposes. See Woodstock Land for Sale, but Yasgur's Legacy Lives On, N.Y. Times, Aug. 28, 1973.

The original plot that hosted Woodstock is now home to a museum. Plaintiffs own and control 100 acres adjacent to the museum. On that plot, Howard, Abramson, and Yasgur Road (f/k/a "YRP, LLC") have hosted a series of reunion concerts. In 1989, forty-to-fifty thousand people turned up to Yasgur Farm even without an organized event to attend. In 1996, Plaintiffs took the initiative and hosted an organized, three-day outdoor music festival. The 1996 festival launched Plaintiffs and the Town into a "long-running and sometimes bitter conflict... about permits and no-camping rules." A Beloved Woodstock Nation Site Goes on Sale, N.Y. Times, Aug. 12, 2007. This conflict has run from 1996 to the present. Writing in 2012, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, noted that Abramson and Howard "for many years have had a contentious and litigious relationship with [the] Town of Bethel regarding their use of their parcels of property within the Town on which they allegedly frequently conducted entertainment events, such as concerts, without first obtaining the necessary permits from the Town." Town of Bethel v. Howard, 944 N.Y.S.2d 390, 391 (N.Y.App.Div. 2012).

B. Allegations

The instant case represents the latest chapter in this saga. The complaint alleges that the Town, Gettel (a Town code enforcement officer), Sementez (a Town building inspector), and Sturm (the Town supervisor) violated Plaintiffs' constitutional right to equal protection under the law, by enforcing land use restrictions more stringently for Yasgur Road than for a competing company, G&B. The complaint outlines the historical relationship between each company and the Town, and where the complaint lacks detail, the public record provides it.[1]

1. Yasgur Road

In 1997, after the three-day festival in 1996, the Town sought and obtained an injunction (first temporary, then permanent) requiring that any "recreation amusement or recreation use" of the land be properly permitted by the Town. Complaint ("Compl.") (dkt. no. 1) ¶¶ 12-13. In effect, the injunction required that ...


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