A group of architects venture is demanding $290,000 from The Center For Popular Democracy for allegedly not paying bills for designing a conference center in New Castle near Ossining.
Urban Quotient, White Plains, also is demanding that the property be sold to pay the bills, according to an April 14 complaint filed in Westchester Supreme Court.
Popular Democracy is a nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn that promotes a progressive political and economic agenda. It has operated a retreat at Bailey Farms Retreat and Conference Center, also called the Action Lab, since 2016.
The New Castle property encompasses 23 acres on two parcels on Barnes Road, with a farmhouse – conference center, walking paths and a pond.
Around 2017, the organization began planning an expansion to accommodate larger gatherings. The idea was to “expand our collective capacity to implement an innovative path to justice,” according to a 2019 fundraising brochure, and to support workshops and training for “thinkers, artists and activists.”
The $11 million project included construction of 12 cabins for overnight lodging, a performance center and renovations of the main house.
Urban Quotient was hired to develop a master plan, obtain governmental land use approvals, create construction documents and perform other architectural services.
Urban Quotient is a joint venture of Peter F. Gaito & Associates, White Plains, and Samir S. Shal Architect P.C., Brooklyn, began working on the project in 2018.
Fifteen months later, Popular Democracy terminated the project, according to the complaint, as it had the authority to do under the architectural agreement. The complaint does not say why the deal was stopped.
By then, Urban Quotient claims, it had performed its obligations, “except as it was prevented from doing so” by Popular Democracy, and the Brooklyn organization was obligated to compensate the architects for their work.
Urban Quotient says it was entitled to $325,000 in fees and expenses. It had received $50,000, leaving $290,000 that Popular Democracy has allegedly refused to pay.
Urban Quotient accuses Popular Democracy of breach of contract and unjust enrichment. It also seeks to foreclose on two mechanic’s liens to compel sale of the properties to pay the debt.
Popular Democracy did not respond to an email asking for its side of the story.
West Harrison attorneys Mark Cermele and Geoffrey S. Pope represent Urban Quotient.