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White Plains Honda says Continuum construction has created a hazard in $50M lawsuit

Lawsuit accuses Cappelli company and developer LCOR of unsound building practices

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The Continuum project towers over the Honda service center on Westmoreland Avenue. Photo by Peter Katz

White Plains Honda has sued Louis Cappelli’s LRC Construction LLC and the developers of the Continuum residential towers in White Plains for $50 million, claiming that they built a structure under the dealership’s property that damaged its car repair shop and potentially risked the safety of the apartment buildings.

White Plains Honda put Cappelli and an affiliate of LCOR Inc., the Berwyn, Pennsylvania real estate developer, on notice in August in a two-page summons filed in Westchester Supreme Court. Since then, court filings have spelled out the full scope of the allegations, as well as the defendants’ denials of wrongdoing.

The work was not done in accordance with sound construction practices, the dealership states in a Dec. 26 amended complaint, and with “brazen disregard for the safety of persons employed by White Plains Honda … and members of the public on or about the defendants’ apartment buildings and the project site.”

LRC Construction and LCOR broadly denied knowledge of the alleged actions, in responses filed last month.

The Continuum is a $250 million project comprising a 16-story, 288-apartment North Tower that opened in 2017 and a 16-story South Tower currently under construction at 55 Bank St. The project is on a former municipal parking lot near the Metro-North Railroad station.

White Plains Honda operates a repair shop next door, on Westmoreland Avenue.

The back of the Honda service center. Photo by Peter Katz

The public has an interest in the Continuum, in that the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency granted the developer $45.5 million in tax subsidies in 2007.

The dealership claims that LRC Construction and LCOR drilled under its property and installed 20, 70-foot-long tieback structures to stabilize the South Tower’s foundation walls.

The developer and builder did not ask for or receive permission to drill under the dealership’s property, according to the complaint, and did not receive city building department approval for the design. A tall fence was allegedly built to conceal the drilling.

The foundation wall was supposed to be a temporary structure to support excavation, according to the complaint, built with 5,000 pounds per square inch of reinforced concrete, as approved by the city building department. After the structural engineer resigned in 2015, amended drawings, allegedly not approved by the building department, substituted 2-foot-thick sheet piling.

The drawings allegedly describe the soil at the project site as capable of bearing 6,000 pounds per square foot. But soil borings below the dealership’s property show “moist, loose, poorly-graded sand with silt,” White Plains Honda claims, that has an allowable foundation pressure of 1,500 pounds per square foot, or 75% less than called for by the drawings.

During the drilling and installation of the tiebacks, the complaint states, White Plains Honda “suffered extreme shaking, noise and disruptions to the business’ operations.”

Demolition, excavation and drilling allegedly undermined the dealership’s parking lot and damaged walls, signs and underground structures, such as drainage pipes, causing $20 million in damages.

The dealership claims that its property is worth less now, that the possibilities for future uses have been limited and that fixing the damages “to achieve the highest and best use of the property” will be costly.

White Plains Honda accuses LRC Construction and LCOR of trespass, private nuisance and negligence. In addition to $50 million in damages, it is demanding that the builders remove the tiebacks at their own cost and that they be forbidden from building structures on the dealership’s land.

LCOR affiliates WP South Tower LLC and 55 Bank Street LLC state in their defense that the complaint is barred by the statute of limitations. They attribute the damages to contributory negligence by White Plains Honda, acts of third parties over whom they had no control, natural settlement of structures and paved areas, natural subsidence of soil and normal wear and tear.

LRC claims that White Plains Honda is demanding an excessive amount for the damages and that the dealership caused or contributed to the problems and failed to take reasonable steps to avoid or mitigate them.

LRC filed a cross-claim against the LCOR affiliates stating that they failed to obtain insurance to cover the construction company and they should be held responsible for damages.

White Plains Honda is represented by Michael E. Greenblatt and Geoffrey S. Pope of Welby, Brady & Greenblatt LLP of White Plains.

LCOR is represented by Jessica M. Isaacs, of Bartlett LLP of White Plains.

LRC is represented by Jeffrey T. Miller, of Pillinger Miller Tarallo LLP of Elmsford.

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