United States District Court, S.D. New York
Steven E. Greer, Plaintiff,
Dennis Mehiel, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
J. NATHAN, District Judge
Plaintiff Steven E. Greer brings this suit against the
company that owns his former apartment, the company that
manages that apartment building, the Battery Park City
Authority ("BPCA"), and several individuals
associated with those entities. At this stage, two claims
remain in Plaintiffs suit-a First Amendment retaliation claim
and a First Amendment equal access claim. Before the Court
are three motions for summary judgment: one from Plaintiff,
one from a group of Defendants defined below as the Landlord
Defendants, and one from a group of Defendants defined below
as the BPCA Defendants. Also before the Court are requests by
Plaintiff for sanctions and to "reinstate" two
previously dismissed defendants, as well as several sealing
requests from all parties. For the reasons set forth below,
Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment is denied, and
Defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted.
Plaintiffs other requests are also denied. The sealing
requests are granted in part and denied in part.
rented Apartment 35F in the building located at 200 Rector
Place from 2002 through April 2014. Dkt. No. 381 (Rossi
Decl.) ¶¶ L 5; Dkt. No. 373, Ex. 16 (Non-Renewal
Notice); Dkt. No. 382 (L 56.1) ¶¶ 7-9.
relevant times, Milford Management ("Milford")
managed the property located at 200 Rector Place. L 56.1
¶ 2; Rossi Decl. ¶¶ 1-2. Stephen Rossi is the
Vice President and Director of Management Services for
Milford. Rossi Decl. ¶ 1. Mariners Cove Site B
Associates ("Mariners Cove"), where Howard Milstein
is a partner, owns certain units in the building located at
200 Rector Place. Rossi Decl. ¶¶ 1-2. Janet Martin
is involved in the management of properties that Milstein has
an interest in. Rossi Decl. ¶ 2. Milstein, Rossi,
Martin, Milford, and Mariners Cove comprise the
BPCA owns the land on which 200 Rector Place is located.
See Rossi Decl. ¶¶ 54, 59-60; Dkt. No. 376
(Hyman Decl.) ¶ 5. The BPCA is a New York State public
benefit corporation. See N.Y. Pub. Auth. Law §
1973(1). The membership of the BPCA consists of seven
members, a majority of which constitutes "a quorum for
the transaction of any business or the exercise of any power
or function of the authority." N.Y. Pub. Auth. Law
§ 1973(1), (7). The members elect one of themselves as
chairman, and the BPCA may delegate to one or more members,
officers, agents, or employees "such powers and duties
as it may deem proper." N.Y. Pub. Auth. Law §
1973(2), (7). The BPCA has the power to "acquire, lease,
hold, mortgage and dispose of real property." N.Y. Pub.
Auth. Law § 1974(3). Beginning June 20, 2012, Dennis
Mehiel was the Chairman and CEO of the BPCA. Dkt. No. 375
(Mehiel Decl.) ¶ 1. At all times relevant to this
litigation, Robert Serpico served as the Chief Financial
Officer of the BPCA. Dkt. No. 374 (Serpico Decl.) ¶ 1.
The Court refers to Serpico and the BPCA, together, as the
2009, Plaintiff created a blog called BatteryPark.TV, where
he published articles about the BPCA's activities. Dkt.
No. 377 (BPCA 56.1) ¶ 9; Dkt. No. 394 (PI. Counter to
BPCA 56.1) ¶ 9. According to one BPCA employee,
Plaintiffs reporting angered Serpico, who told the BPCA staff
that the blog was not credible and discouraged the staff from
reading it. Dkt. No. 395, Ex. 16 (Ford Depo.) at 10:15-11:7.
and Rossi sometimes met for lunch or coffee, including one
such meeting during the fall of 2013. See Serpico
Decl. ¶ 3; Rossi Decl. ¶¶ 61-63; Dkt. No. 395,
Ex. 20 (Swanson Depo.) at 21:8-22:4.
letter dated January 24, 2014, Milford informed Plaintiff
that his lease would not be renewed and instructed him to
vacate his apartment by April 30, 2014. Non-Renewal Notice.
Plaintiff insists that there is no proof that he failed to
pay rent, see, e.g., Dkt. No. 368 (PI. 56.1) ¶
28, but there is evidence in the record that Plaintiff often
submitted late payments or owed money on his apartment.
See Greer Ex. T (Greer Checks); Dkt. No. 373, Ex. 25
(Spreadsheet); Dkt. No. 381, Ex. 6 (7/2/12 Email from Greer);
Dkt. No. 381, Ex. 7 (7/30/12 Email Rossi-Greer); Dkt. No.
381, Ex. 9 (9/27/12 Greer-Hill Emails); Dkt. No. 381, Ex. 10
(12/6/12 Email from Greer); Dkt. No. 381, Ex. 11 (3/20/13
Greer-Hill Emails); Dkt. No. 381, Ex. 12 (4/25/13 Email from
Greer); Dkt. No. 381, Ex. 15 (5/16/13 Email from Greer); Dkt.
No. 381, Ex. 16 (8/7/13 Email from Greer); Dkt. No. 381, Ex.
17; Dkt. No. 381, Ex. 20 (7/3/12 Greer-Rossi Emails). Though
disputed, there is also some evidence that the Landlord
Defendants took legal action against other tenants when they
owed two months' rent or more. See L 56.1
¶¶ 55, 58, 60; Dkt. No. 381, Exs. 34-43.
one BPCA employee asked Serpico "if [Serpico] had
anything to do with Greer not getting his lease renewed,
" Serpico, according to the employee, "visibly
smirked, shrugged, " and did not answer the question.
Swanson Depo. at 19:9-21, 24:7-20.
the non-renewal notice, Plaintiff did not vacate his
apartment by April 30, 2014. See BPCA 56.1 ¶
13; PI. Counter to BPCA 56.1 ¶ 13. Accordingly, Mariners
Cove began an eviction proceeding against Plaintiff.
See PI. 56.1 ¶ 46. In response to an email from
Plaintiff warning Defendants not to delete any emails,
Serpico emailed Rossi on May 28, 2014, and asked, "Is
[Plaintiff] now evicted? Where is he living?" Dkt. No.
374, Ex. 1 (5/28/14 Serpico Email).
was ultimately evicted from his apartment in the spring of
2016. Dkt. No. 184, Ex. D (Housing Court Decision).
contend that Plaintiff regularly harassed and bothered BPC A
employees and Battery Park City residents. See,
e.g., BPCA 56.1 ¶ 14. Plaintiff denies those
accusations and emphasizes that any alleged misconduct
occurred after Plaintiffs lease was not renewed. PI. Counter
to BPCA 56.1 ¶ 14. However, there is evidence that the
BPCA Defendants were aware of at least one incident in which
Plaintiff acted antagonistically before January 2014.
See Dkt. No. 373, Ex. 11 (March 11, 2013 Email)
(detailing an incident in which a woman called the police
because Plaintiff was yelling at her and trying to videotape
attended the BPCA board meeting held on June 9, 2015. BPCA
56.1 ¶¶ 40-42; PL Counter to BPCA 56.1 ¶ 41.
At the end of the meeting, the BPCA board transitioned to an
executive session, which was closed to the public.
See BPCA 56.1 ¶ 43; PI. Counter to BPCA 56.1
¶¶ 41-42. However, Plaintiff refused to leave the
meeting room. BPCA 56.1 ¶ 44; PL Counter to BPCA 56.1
¶ 43. Kevin McCabe, Mehiel's Chief of Staff, asked
Plaintiff to leave the room and advised Plaintiff that if he
did not leave the police would be called. BPCA 56.1
¶¶ 44-48; PL Counter to BPCA 56.1 ¶ 47.
Plaintiff then left the room. PL Counter to BPCA 56.1 ¶
the June 9, 2015, board meeting, Mehiel decided to exclude
Plaintiff from the BPCA offices, including future BPCA board
meetings, to ensure safety and minimize disruptions. Mehiel
Decl. ¶¶ 13-15; see also Dkt. No. 373, Ex.
3 (McCabe Depo.) at 32:24-33:3 (McCabe stating that Mehiel
directed security to ban Plaintiff from BPCA offices because
of Plaintiffs "abusive and disruptive behavior");
Dkt. No. 376, Ex. 13 (6/9/15 Email from Mehiel) (instructing
security to exclude Plaintiff from the BPCA office because of
his "[c]onsistent hostile behavior"). According to
Mehiel, the BPCA could have reviewed that decision but chose
not to. Mehiel Decl. ¶ 16. Instead of attending the July
29, 2015 BPCA board meeting, Plaintiff was allowed to watch a
live video feed of the meeting in a building several blocks
away from the BPCA main offices. See Mehiel Decl.
¶ 14; BPCA 56.1 ¶ 56; PL Counter to BPCA 56.1
August 4, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this action.
Dkt. No. 1. He filed a Second Amended Complaint on November
4, 2015. Dkt. No. 85 (SAC). Plaintiff alleged, inter alia,
that Defendants violated his First Amendment rights.
Specifically, he claimed that the nonrenewal of his lease,
which led to his ultimate eviction, was the result of a
conspiracy by the Landlord Defendants and the BPCA, Mehiel,
and Serpico to retaliate against Plaintiff for his blog.
See SAC ¶¶ 42-43, 64. In addition,
Plaintiff claimed that the BPCA, Mehiel, and Serpico
unlawfully excluded him from the July 2015 board meeting.
See SAC ¶¶ 68-73. Plaintiff initially
sought an order enjoining Defendants from evicting him.
See SAC ¶ 36; Dkt. No. 2. On February 24, 2016,
the Court denied Plaintiffs motion for a preliminary
injunction enjoining the then-ongoing eviction proceedings in
state court. Dkt. No. 138.
filed motions to dismiss, Dkt. Nos. 102, 114, which the Court
granted in part and denied in part on September 30, 2016,
see Dkt. No. 177. Relevant here, the Court granted a
motion to dismiss the retaliation claim against Mehiel but
denied the motion to dismiss that claim against the Landlord
Defendants, the BPCA, and Serpico. See Dkt. No. 177
at 6. The Court also granted a motion to dismiss the second
claim-unlawful exclusion from the board meeting-against
Mehiel and Serpico but allowed the claim to continue against
the BPCA. See Dkt. No. 177 at 6. Accordingly, at
this point, Plaintiff has two remaining claims: (1) a First
Amendment retaliation claim against Defendants BPCA and
Robert Serpico (the "BPCA Defendants") and
Defendants Mariners Cove Site B Associates, Howard Milstein,
Steve Rossi, Janet Martin, and Milford Management (the
"Landlord Defendants"), and (2) a First Amendment
equal access claim against the BPCA.
Landlord Defendants and the BPCA Defendants each move for
summary judgment. Dkt. Nos. 371, 379. Plaintiff also moves
for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 366.
MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
is entitled to summary judgment only if there is no genuine
dispute of material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Ramos v. Baldor Specialty
Foods, Inc.,687 F.3d 554, 558 (2d Cir. 2012). In
reviewing the evidence on a motion for summary judgment,
courts construe the evidence in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in
that party's favor. Id. "A fact is material
if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law, and an issue of fact is genuine if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a