Home Courts Bradford Road landowner claims Mount Vernon mayor, IDA officer blocked property sale

Bradford Road landowner claims Mount Vernon mayor, IDA officer blocked property sale

NRP Group Bradford Road Mount Vernon Landauer lawsuit
1 Bradford Road in Mount Vernon. Photo by Bill Heltzel

A Mount Vernon property owner has sued Mayor Richard Thomas, Roberta James and the city’s Industrial Development Agency for $15.1 million, claiming that they stymied his attempts to sell his property.

Alan Landauer of White Plains, who owns 3 acres at 1 Bradford Road, said that Thomas and James insisted that a developer build a hotel or commercial complex, for which the land was not zoned, instead of housing. After the project collapsed because of obstructions by the city, he alleges, James asked him for exclusive rights to represent him on selling the property.

In a lawsuit filed on Dec. 18 in federal court in White Plains, Landauer accuses Thomas and James of “stripping him of any economically viable use of his property” and of depriving him of the ability to realize a reasonable return on his investment.

“The Mount Vernon IDA has not been served with any lawsuit,” the mayor’s spokeswoman, Maria Donovan said today.

The “proposal for 1 Bradford Road was a bad deal for Mount Vernon. It did nothing to bring real jobs to Mount Vernon or expand the commercial tax base. The IDA’s obligation is to encourage economic growth that benefits the whole city, not simply sign off on every deal that is presented.”

bradford road mount vernon
Photo by Bill Heltzel

James said today she could not respond to the allegations because she had not yet seen the lawsuit.

The Bradford Road property is next to the Hutchinson River Parkway at Willson’s Woods Park.

Landauer bought the land and a 52,000-square-foot office-warehouse in 2001. For 15 years he operated Landauer Metropolitan, a medical supplies business. He filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and shut down operations.

The land and building have been deteriorating since then and his LTTR Home Care LLC has been paying $350,000 a year in taxes and interest.

Landauer, 69, has been trying to sell the property to pay off debts and fund his and his wife’s retirements.

Wood Partners of Atlanta agreed to buy the property in 2014, for a 120-unit apartment building. The city council changed the zoning from industrial to residential and the IDA approved a tax abatement plan.

But Wood Partners encountered community opposition and withdrew the project.

Last year, the NRP Group of Cleveland agreed to buy the property, contingent on securing tax abatement approval from the IDA.

NRP’s plans also called for a 120-unit apartment building, but the developer modified the designs to make the building seem less massive and less industrial, to allay some of the concerns of neighbors.

It applied to the IDA for tax abatement, using essentially the same terms that the IDA had granted to Wood Partners.

The IDA was now run by Thomas, the new mayor, and staffed by his appointees. He had named James, who had been his campaign manager and had run his inaugural committee, as the IDA’s business development director at $86,000 a year.

Thomas had already signaled his vision for Bradford Road.

“I recommend to the current developer that this site be transformed into a boutique hotel with a conference center,” he said in his 2017 state of the city address, a week before NRP Group presented plans to the IDA.

Landauer said Thomas told him on May 17 that the IDA would not support NRP’s project unless it included a 75-room hotel or a retail component.

James allegedly called NRP after the state of the city address and left a message identifying herself as “with the city.” When an NRP representative returned the call, James  allegedly identified herself as a private broker and asked if NRP would be interested in selling the property to a hotel developer.

James is a registered real estate broker and operates Miss Bees Realty LLC from her home.

The property was not zoned for a hotel or commercial use, Landauer states in the complaint, and in all the years it was on the market no one had expressed interest in developing a hotel on the site.

“I would be delighted to sell it. It’s an albatross around my neck right now,” he told the Westchester County Business Journal in October. “Where he dreamed up a hotel, I don’t know.”

Despite the belief that there was no market demand for a hotel or major retail use, NRP Group added a food truck and picnic area to its plans to satisfy Thomas’ demands.

Landauer’s lawsuit states that NRP made numerous requests to get on the IDA agenda, to get preliminary approval for a tax abatement plan, hold a public hearing and get final approval. Each time it was rebuffed.

Thomas invited Landauer to the IDA’s June meeting. Two other projects got approvals, but the NRP project was not on the agenda. Landauer said he left the meeting puzzled as to why he was invited.

Then Thomas held a press conference after the meeting, in which he unveiled several pending and proposed residential projects, but not Bradford Road.

“The clear message,” Landauer said, “was that Thomas intended to block residential development at the property and that only a hotel or catering project, or some other project, with his and James’ support would gain IDA assistance.”

The lawsuit describes a series of meetings and phone calls, with Landauer or NRP representatives, in which Thomas or James insisted on a hotel.

Landauer said he got a call from two people, who are not named in the lawsuit, to meet. They claimed at the meeting to have developed hotels in the area but had no financial backing, the lawsuit states.

Landauer said he told them he had a contractual obligation to sell the property to NRP Group, “which he intended to honor.”

Finally, in early September, NRP was notified that it would be on that month’s IDA agenda, Landauer said. It was not.

Thomas repeatedly told NRP representatives to “sit down. We will not act on your application,” the lawsuit states.

NRP then terminated its contract with Landauer.

“Not only was the city failing to be a cooperative partner,” NRP official Jonathan Gertman wrote in a Sept. 25 letter to Thomas, “it was actively attempting to derail the project.”

Three weeks later, Landauer said, James called and said she might have a hotel interested in buying the property. She allegedly asked him to “give her an exclusive” on the sale of the property.

He said he refused, “finding the timing and substance of the call distasteful and patently inappropriate.”

Landauer is accusing Thomas and James of retaliation under the First Amendment, for his unwillingness to capitulate to Thomas’ demands and for violating his right not to associate with James and her purported clients.

He also charges them with conspiracy, racketeering, unconstitutional taking of property and conflict of interest as municipal officials. He accuses the IDA of abuse of discretion and of acting in bad faith to undermine the NRP project.

He is asking for more than $5 million in damages on most of the charges, and treble damages on the racketeering charge.

He is demanding that Thomas be removed as IDA chairman and James as an IDA employee.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Landauer has every right to sell his property but he unfortunately first teamed up with the wrong people wanting to add unnecessary residential development to a park area. His land/building is commercial and should not have been rezoned. The City should have work with him to find a business or retail entity to take over the land which by the way the City owned through a straight lease as he was on a PILOT program for decades. It was apparent in earlier meetings, Wood Partners were given a handshake deal with the former administration which fell apart with the new administration. NRP had no better of a development and the inclusion of food trucks was ridiculous and did not conform with the area.

  2. The city is corrupt and dysfunctional. Its always been its just worse now.
    Just Look at the appointees that Mr Thomas has put in.
    The rezoning was granted and the projects should have been finished by now.
    its previous zoning would have permitted industrial uses so if that’s what they wanted they should have not granted the zoning change lead along these people and waste their time & money.
    Who is going to go to a hotel in Wilson woods ???

  3. I agree with Mr Beckenmeyer. You don’t mislead people who are investing money in your community.
    A Wilson woods hotel would not be anything other than a hotsheet 1 hour motel. Very Bad idea.
    Encourages more crime.

  4. New apartments in the Park? Why not ?? Beautiful area for people to walk out of their apartments and to the lake.
    Where else can you do that???
    New Rochelle has it near Glen Island and by the City Marina..
    Residential would increase the current taxes as well.
    Stop the madness and get on with it Mr.Mayor.
    Thank you

  5. The property owner had his zoning changed for the sole purpose of developing it into residential rentals.
    The Mayor doesn’t want this so he deprives the property owner of his legal rights of due process.
    Seems like The property owner should win in court bigtime.
    No elected official should have dictatorship rights as it seems like in this case.
    If the Mayor had a counter plan that wouldnt financially affect the owner thats a different story but I havent heard of any and I doubt if one exists other than a fairytale wishlist.

  6. Actually the ZBA was wrong for changing the zoning. And since none of you here even went to the meeting the residential developments by both developers were overbearing intrusive and would have eliminated 300 living health trees. The people who live and the wildlife too have every right to go against an overdeveloped land adding to disruption to their quiet and enjoyment. Mount Vernon has many other places of blight that are in more need of development. And this was going to be 30 year PILOT meaning no fair share of taxes for the City while they were promoting transportation to PELHAM not Mount Vernon. Mr. Landauer hired the wrong real estate agents to promote his property which by the way he had a PILOT on for 12 years…

  7. Alex,
    Are you allowed to change your property zoning for the sole purpose of doing whatever you want with it. the biggest problem in Mount Vernon is the Zoning Board of Appeals who have a rubber stamp for what they want !

  8. Mr or Ms Snow your problem is with the ZBA not the Landowner or his agents. An owner cannot just change as you asked their zoning for the sole purpose of doing whatever they want with it.
    I love trees and wild life too but you cant expect any owner to ignore his financial responsibilities and keep the building vacant and vandalized so that the trees and wildlife are happy. You mentioned 300 trees did you go count them. On this property 300 trees ?? Absolutely Not.
    You are confusing the adjacent COUNTY LAND THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS PROPERTY.
    The wildlife you mentioned are on the COUNTY LAND not this parcel ..
    You failed to mentioned that Landauer Medical who had to put in a tremendous amount of money when they initially bought it paid taxes through a pilot program which most developers or businesses that hire a significant amount of local employees or have large projects like Landauer QUALIFY for the program.
    Mount Vernon taxes are very high and without the pilot programs you would have a lot more empty buildings WHICH IS WHAT WE DONT NEED.

  9. Alex,
    Yes that was my point it is the ZBA who should have denied Mr. Landauer the change and he should have hired experts to market the property for business which he didnt. That was a typo it is 30 tress and yes sir I have been there and you obviously have not nor had you attended any of the meetings. And Im not confusing anything – the wildlife are throughout the entire area and the destruction of trees, moss, land would be intrusive to the park and 1 Bradford Road along with the blasting that would have had to happen for the underground garage. Did you know about that? WHAT WE NEED is commerce and there are plenty of other areas in Mount Vernon to build apartments, these weren’t even an ownership opportunity. And your taxes are high because of the PILOTS.

  10. Hi I agree if the ZBA grants the zoning change its for a good reason that’s why they have a board. Any Ideas that other people have to do with another persons property is fine & dandy but its just that.. their IDEAS with no money or plans behind it. Anyone can talk the talk..
    People always love to tell others what they should or shouldn’t be doing.
    This property would be a beautiful place to live are you kidding with the woods and lake !!!.
    Obviously Mr.or Mrs. Snow lives real close now and likes it the way it is…

  11. The ZBA grsnts anything to anyone in Mount Vernon and not necessarily for the good of the City .. just look at sone of the awful buildings going up and destroying the skylines. And yes we live nearby and are affected as we own our properties. Please come to the land use board meetings and see what really goes on you then may have a different opinion.

  12. Living in a park on a lake would be nice as long as it fit exactly Into the existing structural space that is there.. what was proposed was overbearing for the area and took away the landscape from every resident who OWNS their home /co-op adjacent to the park. We have every right to protect our investment and area we love. This last proposal was from an affordable housing developer asking for a 30 PILOT .. no economic benefit to MV but maybe for Pelham. Please attend meetings or at least familiarize yourself with details of these proposed developments that are not always s good idea. As far as the ZBA goes sorry but they are not the most qualified just the chosen group..

  13. Why would Pelham benefit from anything built here ????
    When you use the term Affordable Housing you give the impression that its a SECTION 8 project.
    This was market rate apartments. NOT SUBSIDIZED.
    The County park wasn’t being touched..
    The lake isn’t moving or being built on..
    If Mt Vernon taxes were reasonable maybe all the developers wouldn’t need a pilot program.
    I was looking forward to possibly renting a nice new apartment in a peaceful setting.

    • Delores, NRP is an affordable housing developer and they wanted a 30 year PILOT and were going to shuttle residents to Pelham. Please familiarize yourself with the entire project.

  14. The mayor and his buddies are done.
    Word is he will be indicted very soon on a multiple of charges. Just another politican getting caught..
    and another one will take his place….

  15. I hope this owner wins his lawsuit !!!
    He deserves it after being jerked around by Mayor Thomas and his cronies.
    No property owner deserves to be taken advantage of ..
    It’s obvious the mayor had something up his sleeve.

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