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New Rochelle neighbors have no standing to challenge Cooper’s Corner zoning, judge says

Neighbors who live near Cooper’s Corner in New Rochelle don’t live close enough to challenge a proposed memory health care facility, a judge has ruled.

Shmuel Vasser, Joseph Rafalowicz and Daniel Krasner live in Bonnie Crest, in homes that are 1,200 to 1,800 feet away from the closed Cooper’s Corner Garden Center at 121 Mill Road.

cooper's corner new rochelle lawsuit
Cooper’s Corner Garden Center had been in business at 121 Mill Road for 72 years. Photo by Bill Heltzel

That’s too far away to show potential harm, acting Westchester Supreme Court Justice Anne E. Minihan ruled on Sept. 14, and therefore they do not have legal standing to challenge the proposed memory care facility.

Vasser criticized the court for not addressing how the city handled the process and for not considering alleged misrepresentations by the mayor and city council members.

“The court took a narrow view of standing,” he said, “and thus prevented the actual facts from being litigated and decided on the merits.”

The men sued the city of New Rochelle, including the city council and the planning board, and the developer, ND Acquisitions LLC. They asked the court to nullify a January zoning change that allows senior citizen facilities to be built in the neighborhood.

The proposed 72-bed memory health care facility is a joint venture of two Boston-area companies, National Development and EPOCH Senior Living.

The property is at the end of North Avenue where a Y-shaped intersection splits into Mill and Wilmot roads, between Hutchinson River Parkway and the Kensington Woods neighborhood.

The nursery closed in 2015, after 72 years of operation.

The Bonnie Crest residents claimed that public notices posted on the property were nearly impossible to see and that they were blindsided when the city council posted an agenda on the same day the zoning change was considered.

They said the facility would harm the character of the community and diminish property values.

To establish a legal stake, Minihan ruled, they had to show that they will suffer an injury that is distinct from the general public.

The judge noted that Bonnie Crest is beyond the 250-foot radius where property owners must be notified of a public hearing about zoning issues.

She described the men’s concerns about noise, odor and traffic as “speculative” and “overboard allegations,” and no different than what the community at large could suffer.

Their claims also are not “ripe” because the proposed development is still subject to administrative review and approval. The planning board has scheduled a Sept. 26 public hearing on the site plan.

The men also asked the court for permission to add two Kensington Woods residents who live within 250 feet of the site, Harry and Jacqueline Stone, as petitioners. Minihan ruled that the Stones also lacked standing because there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate special damages.

“It’s an egregious miscarriage of justice,” said Deborah Blatt, Vasser’s wife. “The city essentially bulldozed its citizens, and the judge pushed that forward.”

She said the Bonnie Crest neighbors will appeal the ruling.

The New Rochelle facility would be ND Acquisitions first outside of New England, where the partners have built 10 memory care facilities, National Development Vice President Michael Glynn said in May.

The company said there is a dire need for such facilities in Westchester. The county has an estimated 8,000 residents who are 85 or older and who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Yet, there are only a few hundred beds to serve that population.

National Development and EPOCH have plans to build at least three facilities in Westchester and one in Rockland County. A Norwalk facility is expected to open this fall.


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