Livingston Development Corp. will pay Glen Cove’s legal fees in a lawsuit that aims to block construction of a 176-unit condominium complex the company is building under an agreement the city council unanimously approved Tuesday night.
Residents Roni Epstein and Marsha Silverman filed suit in state Supreme Court in Mineola in January against the city and Livingston, alleging that city officials did not follow legally mandated procedures in approving The Villa project. Epstein and Silverman, who live on a hill above the site, asked for court injunctions to prevent construction.
On April 12, the council voted to pay Uniondale-based Sahn Ward Coschignano $190 an hour to defend the city.
City Attorney Charles McQuair said he called an attorney for Livingston and “requested that they reimburse us because of the magnitude of the legal expenses that we could incur on this.” Livingston agreed to do so, he said.
Daniel Livingston, owner and president of the Queens-based company, declined to comment, citing the “pending legal action.”
Mayor Reginald Spinello said it’s in Livingston’s interest to ensure the city vigorously defends itself, because if the project is blocked, “he’s the one who’s going to suffer the most.”
Grace Slezak, a longtime opponent of The Villa who at the April 12 council meeting had questioned why Livingston wasn’t paying the city’s legal expenses, said taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to defend the project.
“They wouldn’t have had any legal expenses if it weren’t for Livingston pushing through something so inappropriate and out of character for the city,” she said.
McQuair said the legal fees that Livingston will reimburse may be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
“Between Livingston and the waterfront, the city has considerable legal expenses this year alone,” he said.
McQuair was referring to two lawsuits that aim to nullify city approval for a planned $1 billion development along Glen Cove’s waterfront that would include 1,110 condominium and rental units, along with parks, offices, stores and other amenities.
The city is paying for White Plains-based Zarin & Steinmetz to defend it in those suits, although Spinello said RXR, the Uniondale-based waterfront developer, makes quarterly payments to Glen Cove for various waterfront-related expenses, including a portion of legal fees.