The City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved hiring a Uniondale law firm to defend Glen Cove in a lawsuit over an upscale condominium project.
The council agreed to pay Sahn Ward Coschignano $190 an hour to represent the city in the suit filed in January by Roni Epstein and Marsha Silverman, who live on a hill above the site where the 176-unit The Villa is slated to be built.
Resident Steve Gonzalez, 57, questioned why the city needs to hire outside counsel.
“Why can’t Mr. McQuair handle this case?” he asked, referring to city attorney Charles McQuair.
McQuair said the firm’s managing partner, Michael Sahn, is more qualified to represent the city, because Sahn was the attorney for the Glen Cove planning board during much of the time The Villa was before the board.
“I believe he has the knowledge and the expertise,” he said.
Mayor Reginald Spinello said if McQuair were to take the case, the city would have to pay him for each hour of work, because the litigation would go “above and beyond” his normal city attorney duties.
McQuair earns $195 an hour for such litigation, according to his retainer agreement with the city.
McQuair said “it’s actually cheaper for us to hire special counsel” because he would have to spend time researching the project to get up-to-speed with information that Sahn already has.
Gonzalez asked Spinello how much the city would end up spending on the case.
“I can’t tell you how much it’s going to cost because it hasn’t begun yet,” the mayor said.
Epstein and Silverman allege in their suit that city officials did not perform adequate environmental reviews and did not follow legally mandated procedures in approving The Villa, which is to include six buildings of two to four stories.
The suit, filed in State Supreme Court in Nassau County, asks for court injunctions to block the city from processing any applications linked to the project, and to prevent construction on the site until the court rules on allegations in the suit.