When Bonnie Crest residents tried to voice concerns about a proposed zoning amendment in New Rochelle, Mayor Noam Bramson refused to allow them to speak, stopped a video recording of the council meeting and threatened to have police remove them.
That incident on Jan. 17, according to a lawsuit filed on May 5, is evidence that the city illegally rezoned property at Cooper’s Corner to allow a facility for Alzheimer’s patients.
Neighborhood residents Shmuel Vasser, Joseph Rafalowicz and Daniel Krasner sued the city and developer ND Acquisition LLC in Westchester Supreme Court, demanding that a city zoning change and an environmental action be annulled.
Bramson said today that he has not seen the lawsuit and that by policy he defers on legal issues to corporate counsel Kathleen Gill. City spokeswoman Katherine Gilwit said the lawsuit has not been served yet on the city and it does not comment on pending litigation.
Boston-area developers National Development and EPOCH Senior Living have proposed a 64-unit memory care facility at 11 Mill Road, where Cooper’s Corner Garden Center had operated for 72 years.
City Council customarily allows public comment at a public hearing, but not at legislative meetings.
The public hearing was held on Jan. 10.
A notice had been posted on the property, but according to the residents its was done in such a way as to make it nearly impossible to see. Steve Cohen did see the notice a few hours before the hearing and he attended with his wife, the lawsuit states, but they had no information about National’s project or city plans to rezone the property.
Bonnie Crest neighbors objected, by letters and emails, and Bramson agreed to arrange a meeting. But he abruptly canceled, according to the lawsuit, and accused the residents of already deciding to oppose the project.
“At that time,” the lawsuit says, “residents did not have any information on which to base either support or opposition.”
Residents say they were “blindsided” when the agenda for the Jan. 17 legislative meeting was posted the same day, but they mustered about 25 people to attend.
The Cooper’s Corner issues were near the end of the agenda: declaring that an environmental review was unnecessary, amending the zoning map and approving ND Acquisition’s zoning petition.
“What’s the rush?” a man interrupted as council was about the vote. “What are you hiding from?”
Bramson ordered him to sit down and be quiet. More voices can be heard in protest on a video of the meeting. Bramson said he was suspending the meeting for a moment to restore order, and the camera was shut off for seven-and-a-half minutes.
When it was turned back on, council members can be seen shifting uncomfortably in their seats. The votes were called.
Two motions passed by 4-3 votes, supported by Jared Rice, Barry Fertel, Liz Fried and Bramson.
“I can’t see why we can’t just defer this and wait and listen to what the residents have to say,” Louis Trangucci said. “With that I say no.”
Albert Tarantino and Ivar Hyden joined him in dissent.