Message to the Honorable Thomas Roach,
Mayor of the City of White Plains
Plea for a Citizen's Right to be Heard I
Plea for a Citizen's Right to be Heard II
View the below videos to see for yourself the vital need for change in White Plains City Government, where its Common Council, Planning and Zoning Board Public Meetings, to its everlasting shame, show all too clearly, that DEMOCRACY IN ACTION does NOT work when honest speech, public discussion and debate are deliberately suppressed at such meetings and its vaunted "Citzens' Half-Hour," preceding Common Council Meetings is purposefully un-televised to keep awareness of citizens' legitimate grievances away from the general public. For details, see my Three Minute Statements to the White Plains Common Council at its 11/7/11 and 12/5/11 "Citizens' Half Hour."
Common Council Public Hearing - March 5, 2012 - Part I
Common Council Public Hearing - March 5, 2012 - Part II
Common Council Public Hearing - March 5, 2012 - Part III
Common Council Public Hearing - February 6, 2012 - Part I
Common Council Public Hearing - February 6, 2012 - Part II
Planning Board Hearing Jan 17, 2012
Planning Board Hearing Dec 20, 2011
Planning Board Hearing November 15, 2011
Planning Board Hearing August 16, 2011 Part I
Planning Board Hearing August 16, 2011 Part II
Planning Board Hearing July 19, 2011
To show that DEMOCRACY IN ACTION DOES work, ask the Mayor and Common Council to grant Doris Sassower's Petition for Zoning Amendment, at the Common Council Meeting on February 6, 2012, and do so on an EMERGENCY basis -- before it is too late!
SIGN MY PETITION.
Contact info below for White Plains Mayor and Common Council, City Hall, White Plains, 255 Main Street, NY 10601, with copy to Soundview Manor:
Mayor Thomas M. Roach
Hon. Benjamin Boykin
Hon. David Buchwald
Hon. Milagros Lecuona
Hon. Beth N. Smayda
Hon. John M. Martin
Hon. Dennis Krolian
LATEST NEWS: (3/15/12, 9 a.m.) Click Here to Learn About Sunshine Week and... Meet Local Hero Nominees: Doris Lipson Sassower, Carl Albanese, Eli Vigliano and Elena Ruth Sassower
UPDATE: (3/5/12, 4 p.m.) On Friday, March 3, 2012, City Clerk McPherson finally confirmed there was "no deadline," still time for written Public Comments to be submitted for consideration at tonight's Common Council Regular and Stated Meeting, at which an " Ordinance ... amending the Zoning Ordinance of the City of White Plains with respect to establishing Bed and Breakfast Use as a principal permitted use in the R1-30 Zoning District" is listed on the Agenda, headed by "First Reading: Ordinances, Item 38," conspicuously without my name as Petitioner, shown.
Further confirmed by Councilman David Buchwald that same day was that such would be accepted, even after tonight's Meeting. I truly appreciate all your letters of support, including the wonderful Letter of Support, just received from the 3000-member Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII) of my Petition for a Bed & Breakfast Zoning Ordinance Amendment.
However, guess what? Without the slightest explanation for the arbitrary and capricious turn-about, I just today received the following City Clerk McPherson's e-mail, dated Mon 3/5/2012 12:38 PM "In relation to Items 2 and 4 on this evenings calendar, the Mayor will grant you the privilege of the floor. The public comment period for Item 38 was the public hearing on February 6, 2011. The Citizens to be Heard provides the forum for the other matters you, or Mr. Vigliano wish to address." What better proof that "anything goes" in this City? Tonight's Common Council Meeting will definitely NOT be dull. One way or another, I will make every effort to be heard tonight and will ask that the official minutes of tonight's Meeting and Citizens' Half Hour preceding it record my strenuous objection to the denial of my Citizen's right to be heard, under our federal and New York State Constitutions, as well as under our New York State Open Meetings Law, as proponent of the Bed & Breakfast Ordinance that is the subject of Item 38. It appears that this City administration does not subscribe and does not care if the whole world knows it, to the view attributed to Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," which is what the principle of freedom of speech is all about.
To clarify where we are now, my Petition, dated November 4, 2011, sought a Zoning Ordinance Amendment, expressly declaring Bed & Breakfast to be a "Permitted Accessory Use" and a "Customary Home Occupation." That is the one I submitted at the conclusion of my Statement at the February 6, 2012 Common Council Public Hearing. Shockingly, that is NOT the Ordinance now on the March 5, 2012 Meeting Agenda as Item 38, stated to be the one making it a Permitted Principal Use that I had expressly rejected. The Agenda, also, fails to identify that I had submitted a superseding one, at the conclusion of the February 6, 2012 Common Council Public Hearing on my matter, as shown by the as shown by the City's Public Access Cable TV Video of that Hearing.
I submit that the public has a right to know the whole story, one identifying that I sought to have the listed proposed Ordinance replaced by one making clear the two above-mentioned vital purposes I wished to achieve by the minimal changes involved, making no material difference whatever to the Planning Board's disapproval, as stated in the Nine Agency Communications it considered, which, by the way, were not all unanimously opposed to my Petition.
As I stated in that Video, it was not until I finally got a look at the City's typically late Friday p.m. posted Agenda -- the very day of that Hearing -- that I had the 11th hour opportunity to analyze the Nine Agency Reports listed as "Communications" relating to my Agenda Item. Incredibly, I was never even provided copies of such documents, as requested before -- and after -- the due process-less January 17, 2012 Planning Board Meeting that disapproved my Petition, dated November 4, 2011. All, expressly without a Public Hearing, as allowed to other Amendment Petitioners or otherwise allowing me to be heard to address, one by one, the spurious objections raised in those Reports that were negative, as I repeatedly attempted, and was ready, willing and able, to do, but, nonetheless, curtailed or suppressed in my attempts to be heard to present the true facts to the contrary.
The Video of the January 17, 2012 Planning Board Meeting plainly shows that not only did Planning Board Chairman, Michael Quinn, preclude me from being so heard, in gross violation of my federally and state-guaranteed constitutional due process and equal protection rights, but that he did so, in an abusive and inhumane manner, including rude, discourteous, demeaning and humiliating treatment, and toleration of such from other Board Members, without the slightest reproof to them. Indeed, the Videos of all three other Planning Board Meetings show that such was Chairman Quinn's standard modus operandi, with respect to his conduct, as Chairman, of all three prior such Meetings, vividly exemplifying his utter unfitness for his Chairmanship or any other public position. Most certainly, those "on the job" performances disqualify him for any Mayoral and Common Council re-appointment thereto.
Fortuitously, such intention is reflected on the March 5, 2012 Agenda, under "APPOINTMENTS "Item 2. Communication from the Mayor in relation to the appointmentof Michael Quinn as Chairman of the Planning Board to a term that will expire on December 31, 2018"--a most opportune time for me to speak out against such intended monstrous decision -- given that I complained bitterly about Chairman Quinn's appalling behavior, as recently as by my e-mailed my nine-page letter dated February 27, 2012 to Mayor Roach and Common Council Members, not to mention at the February 6, 2012 Common Council Meeting. My low opinon of Chairman Quinn was echoed by Public Comment at that Meeting from a member of the audience, whom I barely knew, but by name, Paula Piekos, and by reputation, as an upstanding and concerned citizen, demonstrated by the fact that she was unafraid to speak out compassionately on my behalf and share her incisive observations of Chairman Quinn, as seen by her on the Video of that Planning Board Meeting, as well as her own personally painful experience with the Planning Board.
From my very first appearance before the Board on July 19, 2011, Chairman Quinn chose to proceed, by ignoring my repeated objections, on the knowingly false and concocted mis-characterization of my Use Variance Application, as one "to establish a Hotel" on my property. It was quickly evident that he relied completely on Planning Department Commissioner Susan Habelís mis-statements to that effect, "rubber stamped," as they were, by Senior Corporation Counsel, Arthur Gutekunst and accepted by the Board. As shown by the Videos of all Planning Board Meetings on my matter, that was equally true as to other issues, as to which Chairman Quinn openly took his cues from Commissioner Habel, turning in her direction or conferring with her in whispers or overtly from time to time in the course of the Hearings and before his various rulings, on occasion leaving his seat and going right up to her or she coming down from her seat to confer with him, in similar reliance upon her biased misrepresentations and opinions on those questions,including legal ones, although she is not a lawyer, a highly objectionable practice followed by him at all subsequent Meetings.
Egregious misrepresentations were also made by non-lawyer Building Commissioner Damon Amadio, who was permitted to make the same knowingly false and defamatory comments concerning me and my property, as had been previously made by Councilman Boykin at the July 6, 2011 Zoning Board of Appeals Public Hearing on my Use Variance Application, at which he was also present, again without affording me the time to refute them, as was no less the case when I appeared at such earlier Public Hearing, run by the equally incompetent Chairwoman Cecilia Bikkal, who, likewise denied me my constitutional rights at both Public Hearings, held by her on July 6th and on October 5, 2012 due process-less Zoning Board of Appeals'(ZBA) Public Hearings, with the same predictable, pre-determined arbitrary and capricious outcome. Both Boards were plainly controlled by Planning Commissioner Habel. All three showed complete ignorance of and/or insensitivity to "conflict of interest" rules of law and ethics -- both Quinn and Bikkal, having allowed themselves to be, and appear to be, compromised in their duty to act independently of Department Commissioners, when they are serving as Hearing Officers with quasi-judicial powers in rendering their decisions, whether, as the Planning Board does on referrals from the Common Council, as well as from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
As stated at the February 6 Common Council Meeting, the reason for my rejection of the Ordinance, now Item #38 at tonight's Common Council's Meeting Agenda, was my conclusion that, if enacted, it would be illegal because the White Plains Zoning Ordinance allows only one Permitted Principal Use in a residential neighborhood. Both Planning Commissioner Habel and Senior Corporation Counsel Gutekunst surely knew that. If I, albeit a trained lawyer, but not a zoning law specialist, could readily see, by legal rules of construction that apply the doctrine of strictissimi juris, (the strictest letter of the law) to zoning cases, that would compel such conclusion, how could they not? So, were they "setting me up for defeat," even were I to overcome all their other objections, which I could easily have done?
As acknowledged to Mayor Roach on his direct inquiry, I did, indeed, "understand" that my disavowal of the original Ordinance was against my own personal interest. Doubtless, it would slow things along, which would, and has, added greatly to my discomfort level. However, I expressly withdrew my consent to it, with the reasonable expectation that the limited change I wished made, reflecting my true intent, was minor enough to avoid the predictable delay involved in what City Clerk, Anne McPherson identified in her confusing Friday, February 10, 2012 4:47 PM e-mail to me, telling me that "If it is not your wish to withdraw your current petition, then your three proposed amendments, as enumerated above, will be filed and no further action will be taken on them." with yet another Common Council referral back to the Planning Board for another prolonged round of re-drafting -- a senseless course of action devoutly not wished by me.
That was the very reason why, with the invaluable aid of my real estate specialist legal advisor, Eli Vigliano, Esq., on the day of the February 6, 2012 Public Hearing, I rushed to bring with me an acceptable replacement for tonight's Common Council Agenda, one, not vulnerable to the illegality objection. That is the one I submitted at the conclusion of my presentation and, in the following two days, when, under less intense time pressure, I noticed a couple of inadvertent,insignificant,non-substantive clerical errors. So, I quickly refined my replacement proposed Ordinance to satisfy my personal high standards and immediately transmitted it to the Mayor, Common Council Members, the Corporation Counsel and all involved Appointed Public Officers, including the City Clerk.
No matter. Once again, days passed with no response from anyone at City Hall, other than the Friday, terse one from City Clerk McPherson 2/10/2012 4:47 PM. She stated that, if I did not confirm that I would "withdraw [my] former Petition," which I had already stated I would not, in answer to that specific question Mayor Roach had asked me, and "submit a new proposed petition to be on the March 5, 2012 Common Council Calendar, then my "three proposed amendments ... will be "Filed and no further action will be taken on them," for which no legal authority was cited.
The only response I received to my Thursday, February 16, 2012 2:53 PM three-page reply to City Clerk McPherson's email to the same Elected Public and Appointed Officers designated recipients, I had sent mine to, in which I complained about the non-responsiveness to the specific questions I asked in my two two emails to her and all such recipients on Wednesday, 2/8/2012,12:14 PM and Tuesday, February 07, 2012 4:52 PM, as to whether a vote would be taken and I would be allowed to speak.was the one I received the very same day, Thu 2/16/2012 4:58 PM from the Planning Department/Board, stating "As per the email communication from the City Clerk, dated February 10, 2012, there is no matter on the February 21, 2012 Planning Board agenda relating to 283 Soundview Avenue.- Eileen McClain."
That left me still in the same quandary, such that I did not know until late morning, March 3, 2012 whether or not my proposed superseded Ordinance and/or my proposed replacement, as revised, would be on tonight's Agenda. But, of course, the latter would have been too quick, easy and inexpensive a "fix" for the City to accept, especially coming from me!
In all that lapsed time, the "guessing games," continued, with no response whatever from any of the key Elected and Appointed City officials, who callously continued to play "cat and mouse" with me, arrogantly choosing to ignore my reiterated inquiries and requests to know: (a) whether or not (since it had denied, by silence, my and patriot, Carl Albanese's requests for a Work Session/Special Meeting at City Hall or at Soundview Manor, such being regularly afforded to other Zoning Ordinance Amendment Petitioners), it would accept my standing invitation to meet with me to work out a sensible, speedy resolution of our differences in advance of tonight's Common Council Meeting Agenda, so as to permit me to make appropriate arrangements therefor or even (b) whether or not my Item would even be on that Agenda.
Of course, that was over and beyond the City's continuing to date, failure and refusal to reply to my nine-page February 27, 2012 letter to the Mayor and Common Council, with copies to relevant appointed Public
Officers -- particularizing the undenied, undeniable, documented criminal and unethical conduct relating to my serious and stunning complaints of biased, conflicted and corrupt municipal decision-making in all matters related to me.
Unquestionably, such was part of a common plan, designed by these complicitous co-conspirators, to wear me out by foot-dragging and other well-known forms of "stonewalling," including diverse dilatory and obstructive tactics, like the unreturned phone calls, the unanswered correspondence, including FOIL requests, and my repeated reminders thereof, etc., etc. Because of such ong-standing pattern and practice of discriminatory and abusive treatment of me and other official municipal misconduct I have suffered for many years on the part of this City, I have, unfairly, been compelled to spend huge chunks of my precious time in a stream of ever unresponded-to e-mails to our municipal Elected and Appointive Public Officers -- irretrievable time and energy, not to mention the money I expended, in a good faith effort to spare the City property taxpayers, including myself, the ordeal of spending still more of their and my finite resources in what otherwise would come to pass.
Over and again, I did my very best to avoid being drawn into yet another "exercise in futility" by having to re-start the legislative and administrative processes once more. That, I will not, cannot, do under present circumstances, physically, emotionally, or financially -- without this City's assurance of CHANGE happening now, by positive expressions of support, in words and actions.
My position, pure and simple, is, and always has been, a straight-forward one, as documented by the voluminous record of my meticulously compiled, extensive, comprehensive and dispositive submissions over the last nine months, in support of both my Use Variance and Zoning Amendment Petition: to wit, that Bed and Breakfast is a federal and state, constitutionally and statutorily-guaranteed land use as a matter of right and declared public policy, NOT discretion.
Such usage is one that may be limited, as in the State of New York, which, for many years, has made it available for "up to five rooms" and "up to 10 roomers." However, it can NOT be denied outright, as the City of White Plains purports itself empowered to do. Again, the doctrine of strictissimi juris comes into play to compel the City, not the Petitioner, to bear the heavy burden of making an evidentiary showing of compelling reasons to the contrary, such as those based on matters of health or public safety.
No such reasons exist in this case, where such usage was, not only pre-existing for more than 18 years when I made my Use Variance Application on May 12, 2011, but also, "grand-fathered," as Soundview Manor is, as a matter of New York State law and declared public policy, and so confirmed to me by the New York State Residential Code Enforcement Office before I attended the July 6, 2011 Public Hearing on my Application.
Surely, there must be a public outcry at the shameful and scandalous time and money-wasting travesty that has occurred in our City Hall relative to my Bed & Breakfast Use Variance Application and my Bed & Breakfast Zoning Amendment Petition for nearly ten months -- a "slap in the face" of those of us who expect that democratic values should be practiced and protected, not perverted and destroyed, in their own home town.
There should be "zero tolerance" for leaders who show NO leadership, when it serves their private and political conflicting interests to do so -- closing their eyes and ears when they see before them the betrayal of their sworn Oaths of Office taken "to uphold the Constitution of the United States, the New York State Constitution and the City Charter of White Plains" and the subversion of all that the patriots of our American Revolution held dear, fought for and gave their lives for. What has already happened here can only be viewed as the work-product of a "White Plains City-Controlled Police State." Our citizenry must not allow that repugnant "State" to continue to destroy the quality of life in our White Plains society, as well as our valued property and personal rights and freedoms, even if it means an "Occupy City Hall" protest by all who love this City and care deeply about the wrong road it is taking.
As for me, this City's Elected Public Officers' continued brazen disregard of their proper duties -- including their duty to choose well-qualified individuals to serve as their Public Officer appointees, based on merit, not cronyism, the duty of compassion for its senior citizens, of concern for historic preservation, accountability and transparency. All these values they profess to care about when they are running for and post-election, because they are now "politically correct" to espouse publicly, but not to actually put into practice. That "above the law" attitude may well be the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" that pushes me, as a matter of principle, to avail myself of legal remedies available by "going to Court." These include, but are not limited to, a federal civil rights action to enforce and vindicate not only my rights, but also those of our rightfully aggrieved Public.
Then, at least, the lawyers whom I engage, will, assuredly, not only seek compensatory and punitive damages, but be entitled to an attorney fees award, computed at reasonable market value, plus costs and disbursements, at the end of the day -- rather than I continue my search for redress in the City of White Plains, where I, a pro se, litigant and trained lawyer, have nothing to show for my nine months of hard labor, but a miscarriage of justice.
By its litigation-generating tactics, the City may come to face the reality of spending more money that it does not have to defend itself, at the cost of our long-suffering citizenry. That is, plainly, NOT a smart decision, not only from the economics of it, but also from the viewpoint of revenue and job creation, as well as of preservation of White Plains' rich historic cultural heritage -- both, as borne out in the countless Letters of Support the Mayor and Common Council have received on my behalf, including the March 3, 2012 Letters from the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, as well as from the Westchester County Historical Society, all incorporated by reference herein.
Finally, I request that this Statement be filed and spread upon the record of tonight's Common Council proceeding.
UPDATE: (3/2/2012) As of 9:00 A.M., still no answers to my 2/27/12 UPDATE
UPDATE: (2/27/2012): Sent email asking Mayor and CC for answers, so we don't get shut out of the Mar 5, 2012 CC Regular Meeting. Next thrilling installment of the Soundview Manor saga, coming up!
UPDATE: (2/17/2012) For current status report, read my 2/16 reply to City Clerk McPherson's email to all Elected Public Officers, with copies to all appointed Public Officers and the same day, Thu 2/16/2012 4:58 PM reply of Planning Department/Board Secretary Eileen McClain to my e-mail to the City Clerk, stating "As per the email communication from the City Clerk, dated February 10, 2012, there is no matter on the February 21, 2012 Planning Board agenda relating to 283 Soundview Avenue.- Eileen McClain." None of our elected public officers, i.e., the Mayor or Common Council have seen fit to respond, nor any of the other appointed public officers, confirming that my Petition will be on the March 5, 2012 Agenda,despite my numerous phone calls. Apparently, the City enjoys leaving me in a state of uncertainty.
UPDATE: (2/14/2012) At the February 6, 2012 Common Council Meeting, when Mayor Roach closed the Public Hearing on my B&B Zoning Ordinance Petition -- and to date -- I got no feedback from him or anyone at City Hall as to the substance of my presentation.
Neither did I get any response to my written requests for confirmation from City Hall as to whether my Zoning Ordinance Petition would be voted on at its March 5 Regular Meeting, whether I would have a further opportunity to be heard before that crucial vote is taken, whether the Public Hearing would be re-opened and continued, which I would not oppose. This, especially in light of the fact, as pointed out in my presentation, that, due to the Corporation Counsel's readily-verifiable error in formulating that Ordinance, such, if adopted, would be illegal under current zoning. Why? Because it would create B&B usage as a Permitted Principal Use. That would be a far more radical change than I intended, but one easily rectified by making such a Permitted Accessory use, which I stated would be satisfactory to me.
So as to save the City time and money (were the Common Council going yet again to make its redundant referrals to the Planning Board and other agencies by reason thereof, which have already expressed themselves on the more drastic permitted Principal Use Ordinance, without being willing to hear my answers to their objections), I submitted my hurried re-draft that very night before the Mayor and Common Council voted to close the Public Hearing, so as to have them take such into account, if expedient action were the goal.
However, they not only failed to respond in any way to my presentation, identify their intended further disposition or what closing the Public Hearing signified as to acceptance of further public comment from those who live or work in White Plains who saw the Videos, but could not attend the Public Hearings.
No indication at all as to whether the matter would be on the Council's March 5 Meeting in whatever form the Ordinance might take, since I stated in answer to the Mayor's question that I would not withdraw my Petition, expressly leaving the appropriate format to the City, and only offering the replacement, in a good faith effort to avoid exposing the City to potential liability and substantial damages for such further dilatory and frivolous tactics, were the Corporation Counsel's version to be adopted.
Nor did I receive any response from Mayor Roach or Common Council to the serious charges, with criminal and ethical consequences, I made in my February 6, 2012 presentation against Councilman Ben Boykin, who had maliciously defamed me at the initial July 6, 2011 Zoning Board Public Hearing on my Use Variance application, and at various other times and places prior to and during his 2011 Re-Election campaign.
To this day, Councilman Boykin has never produced documentary proofs to refute the truthfulness of mine, showing me completely innocent of his flat-out lies when he knowingly repeated his repeated false and ludicrous accusations in his Re-Election campaign that I had been "illegally" running a Bed and Breakfast. He, likewise, has not complied with a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) Request and Reminder thereof, for copies of all records, if any, on which he relied in making his defamatory remarks. Such, based on an alleged "crime," i.e., a building violation involving my property, alleged to have occurred on June 6, 2003, not filed until 2004, with a decision not made by the Court until January 19,2007 -- all without a warning or any other notice given to me of the alleged property violation!
Wholly ignored have been my never-denied,irrefutable, sworn documented proofs provided as to the true facts, not only to him, but to the Mayor and every Council Member. I incorporated by reference those shocking details as to such alleged "crime," in actuality, the end-product of a concocted "sting operation" at my home, with a reservation booked by a NY licensed private detective, calling from the Office of Corporation Counsel at City Hall, in my absence and without my knowledge, at a time when, in fact, there were no other guests in house -- financed by the City's payment of some $14,000, in fees, furtively robbed from taxpayers' pockets, so that the detective, his wife and another couple, friends of theirs, could spend a weekend at Soundview Manor (I kid you not), without a warrant, searching for (even manufacturing) evidence to procure proof that there was a bed and breakfast usage at Soundview Manor, a fact to which I would readily have stipulated!!! The City thereby wantonly and maliciously squandered thousands of dollars in taxpayer-paid legal time and monies, not to mention my own defense costs.
The scandalous details of this shameful episode in our municipal history are published on this SAVE THE MANOR website in the READ ON segment below. I first presented a Proposed RESOLUTION for B&B Zoning Amendment more than six years ago, when I came before the Council and made my June 6, 2005 Three Minute Statement to that effect. When I made that untelevised appeal to the Council for help with my most difficult situation, now Mayor Roach, was President of the Common Council, as was now Councilman Boykin, who succeeded him as Council President, on Mayor Roach's Special Election victory on March 31, 2011.
Although both heard my desperate plea, they and now former Council Members said and did absolutely nothing to redress the grievous wrong being done to this obviously being persecuted, long-time property taxpayer, fully aware that had they taken appropriate action, it would have mooted the City's malicious prosecution in City Court, based on an alleged "crime" I did not commit. Because of their conspiracy of silence and inaction over all the years since, my economic circumstances became all the more precarious, which undue hardship was the at the top of my list of compelling reasons why I began to make inquiries at the Building Department about a Use Variance back n March 2011
By his fraudulent reference to the unconstitutional, jurisdictionally-void January 2007 adverse decision by Senior City Court Judge JoAnn Friia, at my July 6, 2011 Zonig Board of Appeals Public Hearing, Councilman Boykin knowingly and deliberately misused the power of his official position to successfully derail and delay my pending Use Variance application for many months. Worse, that prejudicial and wrongful judicial decision, although not even mentioned, let alone discussed, in the ZBA's denial of my Use Variance application by its two-months similarly delayed, adverse decision/order, not received by me until December 6, 2011.
The result of all this tactical maneuvering by the City required me to have to start all over again the time and money-costly process of filing a Petition for Amendment to the Zoning Ordinance, continuously obstructed by our administrative bureaucracy, with the knowledge and approval of City Hall.
Obviously, that is why Councilman Boykin so strongly objected to my reference to such at the February 6th Public Hearing, as my answer to Mayor Roach's question as to "Why are we here?," when I was up at the lectern -- and why the Mayor fell back on his totally inappropriate, stock response that "we don't allow disparaging comments about individuals."
As Mayor Roach knows, Councilman Boykin, however, is not just an "individual," but a public officer enjoying a public trust, who has openly betrayed that trust and trespassed on my federally and state constitutionally protected personal and property rights. As such, he must be held accountable and that is why in my prior correspondence with the Mayor and Common Council, I called for an immediate investigation of his and other official misconduct, including of the City Assessors. That has been part of a long-standing pattern and practice of retaliation against me for my forthright pro bono public advocacy as President and Co-Founder of the Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc.(CJA), starting back in 1989, when I spoke out against the corrupt 1989 Three-Year, Seven Judge cross-endorsements deal between the two major parties, detailed below, that has poisoned the well of justice in our State and City courthouses up to and including the present time.
In that context, I also note, as seen from the 2/6/2012 video, Mayor Roach discouraged and limited my time to respond to all the public comments made by opposing speakers, failing to express a single word of rebuke expressed to opposition speakers, whom he freely allowed to malign my good name, character, motives and property.
After my further written inquiries directed to the Mayor and Common Council on February 7th and 8th, when I e-mailed two further minor revisions to my proposed Replacement Ordinance, of a non-substantive, purely clerical nature, I again proposed a meeting with the City, including for the purpose of arriving at a speedy and amicable resolution -- one assuredly, far less costly for both sides and City tax payers, than possible civil rights litigation, in which, attorneys fees could, rightfully, be awarded to me.
Not until late Friday, 2/10/2012 4:47 PM, did I receive a response from City Hall and then only a terse one from the City Clerk. She stated that, if I did not confirm that I would "withdraw [my] Petition," which I had already stated I would not, in answer to that specific question Mayor Roach had asked me, and "submit a new proposed petition to be on the March 5, 2012 Common Council Calendar, then my "three proposed amendments ... will be "Filed and no further action will be taken on them," for which no legal authority was cited.
More to come in my answer to the City Clerk tomorrow.
UPDATE: (2/10/2012) Once again, I am left, not knowing whether I am "coming or going." At its February 6, 2012 Public Hearing, the White Plains Common Council closed its Public Hearing on my B&B Zoning Ordinance.
No questions were asked by Council Members after my presentation and no vote taken. Since then, I have been unable to learn from City Hall whether such will happen at its March 5 Regular Meeting,whether I will have an opportunity to be heard before that crucial vote is taken, whether the Public Hearing will be re-opened and continued for further Public Comment (which I would not oppose), whether there is an interest now in the Work Session or Special Meeting, proposed by Carl Albanese and seconded by me in prior emails to Mayor Roach and Common Council Members, or in any other meeting, as I have, again and again proposed, to try to arrive at an amicable resolution -- one assuredly, far less costly for both sides -- and city tax payers -- than civil rights litigation. In such case, I will, rightfully, seek attorneys fees.
Neither has Mayor Tom Roach nor President of the Common Council, Beth Smyda, issued a statement or single word in response to the profoundly serious charges I made as to the dereliction and gross misconduct of various City officials involved in my Bed and Breakfast applications, including Councilman Ben Boykin, to which they made no response or comment at all at the Public Hearing.
As may be seen from the City's Public Access Video-cast, the Mayor chastised me for making "disparaging remarks about individuals," when I identified specific documented facts on personal knowledge, substantiating my complaints concerning Councilman Boykin and other City officials, which I felt obliged to make known, not only on my own behalf, but, as a public service in my organizational capacity, as President and Co-Founder of the Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc. (CJA).
Yet, Mayor Roach kept silent and never uttered a word of rebuke, when opposition speakers made disparaging statements about me, my motives and my proposed Ordinance that were subjective, non-specific, non-truthful and non-probative of anything more than their own mean-spiritedness and narrow-minded NIMBY attitudes, to all of which I was allowed insufficient time to respond (vital because, as every trial lawyer like Mayor Roach knows, it usually takes far less time for a glib speaker to tell a lie than for the aggrieved victim to expose it as such).
So, isn't that what is meant by a "double-standard?" Did the Mayor forget what he said in his Special Election night victory statement "... and I promise you as your Mayor, I'm going to fight for every single person in this city, wherever they live, whatever their economic background, because that's what White Plains is all about?"
Why doesn't that include Doris Sassower? Perhaps Mayor Roach needs to hear more voices asking that question.
Meantime, keep up your much-appreciated efforts on my behalf and keep spreading the word of this latest governmental injustice!
To see how Planning Department Commissioner Habel and Senior Corp Counsel Arthur Gutkunst "pulled a fast one" on me, causing, yet again, another delayed resolution of my financially-pressed limbo-like status, just "follow the legal documents," starting with the current Revised Ordinance (2/8/12). Then, work your way back up to in which did not, in fact, reflect my true intent, as expressed in my Petition, dated November 4,2012. In reverse chronological order, starting with my Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) "road map"letter request "for Reconsideration ... and for "Referral thereof to the White Plains Common Council for consideration of a Zoning Ordinance Amendment granting such relief. The ZBA has power itself to initiate a Common Council referral. If there ever were a right case to do that, it would have been mine -- having already, on advice of the Building Department, spent my precious time at nearly 80 (nine months) and money (hundreds of dollars in filing and publication fees), not to mention thousands of dollars in my and others who assisted me in legal time, not to mention the City's taxpayer paid legal time of its Corporation Counsel, all down the drain -- all for naught (unless recompensed in a civil rights lawsuit, which the City's official misconduct is inviting!) --- on my being required to start the process all over again by Petition for a Zoning Ordinance Amendment.
Granting of my requested referral would have saved a massive amount of time and money for the City, as well as for me, the applicant, which is precisely why the Zoning Code gives such referral power to the ZBA, as well as to other Departments and Boards like Planning; alternatively, for Rescinding of said denial decision, its October 5, 2011 Use Variance denial decision,as to which no Order had yet been entered (that took another 60 days to do, and five days more for mailing, bringing me into December and past the December 5, 2011 Common Council Meeting -- despite my pleas for a prompt reviewable Order); Restoration to the November 2, 2011 ZBA Calendar for further action (I was never notified by the ZBA that it had done so, thus not appearing at such time. I was also never notified that my letter request "for Reconsideration ... and other relief,as may be deemed just and proper ...", had already been denied,and likewise uninformed thereof by any City personnel at the Planning Board's November 15, 2011) Meeting. I concluded by identifying that "A copy of this letter is being sent to the City Clerk as an attachment to my Petition for such Zoning Amendment." Thus, the City Clerk would be put on notice that I was, and, indeed, did file my Petition, dated November 4,2011, which she, in fact, received from me at the Common Council Meeting on November 7th, thereby superseding my formal letter Reconsideration request, dated October 17th.
Regrettably, the ZBA kept me in the dark as to its November 2 adverse action on my October 17 letter Reconsideration request, when I attended the Planning Board's November 15, 2011 Meeting. Neither was I ever informed that the document it kept referring to was not my referred formal my Petition for a B&B Zoning Ordinance, dated November 4, 2011 (no Ordinance) Petition dated November 4, 2011 which the City Clerk received from me at the Common Council's December 5 Meeting, but my October 17 letter Reconsideration request, since it did not expressly identify it by date or show it to me -- all the while I kept protesting that I had "filed a Petition," so the Planning Board would have been focussing on that Petition -- and not insisting that my October 17th letter Reconsideration request was "not in the right form, but only a letter ...".
By its very words, that letter identified that a Petition would be forthcoming for the December 5 CC Meeting. The Board's error only became clear to me near the conclusion of the discussion, when the Board Chair and Members insisted on talking amongst themselves, over my remonstrances and objections to Commissioner Habel's wholly unnecessary draft Ordinance, prepared by her, approved by Senior Corp Counsel Arthur Gutkunst, in the erroneous belief that I had only filed the October 17 letter Reconsideration request. As the video shows, the Board refused to let me be heard, so as to permit me to clarify the confusion as to the true facts, as stated hereinabove. On my follow-up inquiry, I learned from the City Clerk and from Mr. Gutkunst that, in fact, she had not transmitted my November 4,2011 dated, hand-delivered Petition, per her specific authorization, until after I made my Three Minute Statement at the Citizens'Half-Hour preceding the Common Council's December 5 Meeting:
1. my current corrected revised B&B Ordinance (PA, not PP, use), expressly inclusive of B&B as a "Customary Home Occupation.";
2. my Petition for a B&B Zoning Ordinance, dated November 4, 2011, to be embodied in an Ordinance, reflective of my intent, expressly inclusive of an increased B&B usage in accordance with NYS law, as well as a "Customary Home Occupation." My Petition, after laying out three B&B proposed options, satisfactory to me, concluded by leaving it to the Common Council to enact whichever one proposed,"in such form as may be deemed most suitable for immediate approval in the best interests of good and welfare of the entire community of the City of White Plains, taking into account the daily reports of thousands of cutbacks in essential governmental services and thousands of municipal jobs lost, frozen." That was because I relied on sec.12.5 of the White Plains Zoning Ordinance spelling out the Planning Board's mandatory duty to help and assist the Petitioner seeking an amendment "to place the amendment in the most appropriate form...," which it utterlly failed to do. ... "
3. WP Planning Commissioner Habel's and Sr. Corp Counsel, Arthur Gutekunst's B&B Ordinance (Special Permit), done with no notice to, or input to me whatsoever, before or after she drafted it, prior to her delivery of it to the Planning Board on the very day of its November 15, 2011 Meeting -- at which time, I was also given a copy;
4. DLS Proposed B&B Ordinance ("fixed up" for her by Planning Dept Commissioner and Sr. Corp Counsel Gutekunst, illegally making B&B a "Permitted Principal Use", without reference to inclusion in "Customary Home Occupations.")
Dear History Buffs and Lovers of Historic Homes, Former Guests, Family, Friends, Colleagues, and Acquaintances of the many years gone by,
For this exigent, most deserving Auld Lang Syne personal appeal (regrettably delayed, due to the sudden loss before Christmas of our long-standing webmaster volunteer -- thankfully, an angel has now resurrected us), please consider donations, in whatever amount of $$$ you can give -- with deepest appreciation from all of us at Soundview Manor, my one and only home for the past 31 years, now listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places.-- the only privately owned home in the City of White Plains ever so designated in the lifetime of the owner, still in occupancy -- a triple honor for the City.
Most welcome also are donations of any and all forms of property or volunteer services of every kind, especially for retired or unemployed lawyers, experienced in land/zoning use, tax certiorari, and civil rights cases, journalists, writers, including grant-writers, fund raisers, tradespersons -- to help with the upkeep, preservation and defense of Soundview Manor, while it defends itself against the City's wholly unfair and discriminatory treatment of me and my property.
Such donations, as well as your letters and emails of support addressed to the Common Council, and your signatures on my online Change.Org Petition, will go a long way toward MAKING A DIFFERENCE in the future survival of Soundview Manor, Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc. (CJA),of which I am Co-Founder and President, with my oldest daughter, Elena Ruth Sassower, its Director, and Doris L. Sassower, honored and profiled in the 2006 book, "Feminists Who Changed America: 1963 to 1975" at this historic moment in time, when all three of us are at the crossroads!
To help you understand the accompanying videos, here's some background. In 1993, at the urging of the Westchester Bed and Breakfast Association, I opened my home to the carefully-screened public as an upscale Bed & Breakfast, with unique hospitality in a serene and tranquil, stress-free environment. Ever since, Soundview Manor Bed & Breakfast has been highly acclaimed, with countless "rave reviews" of those guests, privileged to stay with us from all over the world. See also, the high praise in the Guestbook Comments from then First Lady, Hillary R. Clinton, now Secretary of State, and First Daughter Chelsea, on the occasion of their house-hunting visit to Soundview Manor on June 28, 1999, when still in the White House.
"In honor of the historic importance of Soundview Manor," the Westchester County Historical Society featured my scholarly, footnoted, pictorially illustrated article about the genesis of Soundview Manor Historic Soundview Manor and Its Irish Roots in the current issue of its Westchester Historian Magazine, (originally scheduled as the lead article in the Spring 2012 issue). Enthusiastically commending my "bed and breakfast efforts to preserve Soundview Manor ...," the Society sent a generous Letter of Support dated July 5, 2012 to the City of White Plains, urging approval of my Use Variance Application, then before its Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), at its July 6, 2011 Public Hearing, and that the City "... do everything it is able to do to support that endeavor... White Plains would be much the poorer if the property were to be lost."
Regrettably, that July 6, 2011 ZBA Public Hearing, derailed and delayed, due to objected-to wrongful admission of legally incompetent and prejudical opposing evidence, as well as a continuation Public Hearing, not held until October 5, 2011, when the Board wrongfully closed the Hearing and rendered a denial decision that very night, totally devoid of due process and tainted with multitudinous procedural, as well as and substantive legal errors. Such was due to the gross bias and incompetence of its Chair, Cecilia Bikkal and the other Board Members. Most egregious was their shocking failure, even to recognize that they could not do so, without having taken the time to read my voluminous and comprehensive submissions, brought with, and offered by me that night and accepted by the Chair after-the-fact.
Those documents included my sworn Affidavit in Further Support of my Application with Memorandum of Law,buttressed by eight Exhibits, as well as other sworn statements of experts on my behalf, traffic studies, diverse bed & breakfast data, including decisional case law and other authority, state and nation wide, as well as a number of compelling Letters of Support. Also included was dispositive rebuttal evidence, refuting factually and legally baseless charges against me relating to the matter that had wrongfully caused the July 6 Public Hearing to be aborted and adjourned to a distant date.
Such matter pertained to a 2004 City Court zoning enforcement case relating to Soundview Manor's bed and breakfast usage, instigated by the City on complaint of no aggrieved third party, arising out of a "sting operation," at a $14,000 out-of-pocket cost to the taxpayers (I kid you not!) to prove that two couples, consisting of the Detective, his wife and two of their friends, spent a weekend at Soundview Manor. Such became the subject of defamatory hearsay presented, over my objection, in the midst of my Use Variance case by Common Council President Ben Boykin, then candidate for re-election -- a most flagrant abuse of the power of his office. More on this in the READ ON, below.
After denial of my Use Variance, my numerous Letters of Support included also a further Westchester County Historical Society letter dated November 7, 2011, which was good enough to send a further similar letter to its previous one Letter of Support, in support of my request to the ZBA for Reconsideration, denied at its November Meeting, as well as in support of my Petition for a B&B Zoning Ordinance Amendment, then, for the first time, on the Common Council's November 7, 2011 Stated Meeting Agenda.
Rightly anticipating I would not be allowed to be heard at the televised Common Council Public Meeting that night, even as the proponent of my proposed B&B Zoning Ordinance Amendment. I, therefore, took the opportunity allowed all citizens who wish to do so, whether or not they have an item of their own on the Agenda, are free to speak to the Common Council, up to three minute limitation, at its untelevised Citizens'Half Hour, immediately preceding its televised November 7 Public Meeting. You can read for yourself my request to be heard at the immediately following Stated Meeting in my Three Minute Statement.
Unfortunately, my plea fell on deaf ears. Ditto for its Public Meeting on December 5, 2011, when I similarly presented a Three Minute Statement, requesting to be heard at its Stated Meeting to follow, so as to inform the public, as well as the Council, of my vehement objections to the Planning Board's undemocratic, uncivil and inhumane manner of operation, which I asked be considered "as a formal complaint calling for investigation and discipline by the appropriate public agency, so as to hold those involved accountable."
Read both Three Minute Statements, so as to know what the Common Council did not wish the public to hear -- or even know about. Tellingly, these public officials of our City government have, in no way, acknowledged, responded to, or acted on the complaints I voiced, which has been true in past years, with respect to other legitimate and substantiated complaints I have made evidencing outrageous municipal corruption permeating all its branches, that has caused severe loss of public trust and confidence by its citizenry.
Here's a concrete example. The Westchester Historian article was an expanded adaptation of the one so entitled, published by the March 17, 2011 online White Plains Times, that I had written "In Honor of St. Patrick's Day 2011," which I "dedicated to Jack Harrington, longest serving President of the White Plains Society, from 1982 to 2003," who had always kindly supported my preservation efforts.
In ironic contrast, the White Plains Historic Society (WPHS), under the leadership of its President Robert Hoch and Vice-President John Volperian (who also both serve as Acting Treasurer!) have consistently been disinterested and non-supportive, refusing, on my several requests, to express any support whatever for either my proposed B&B Zoning Ordinance Amendment or my proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendment.
Of course, the Preservation Advocacy Mission of both Historical Societies is the same. However, our local society suffers from the undisclosed multiple conflicts of interest of these two organization officers and, thus it functions, as does our City -- undemocratically. Such inappropriate deep-rooted connections with City government, well known to the Mayor and Council Members, who are complicit in these conflicts of interest, have caused WPHS to stray from that lofty purpose to come up with a diametrically opposite result-- a NO vote on the issue of supporting my Use Variance Application or my Petition for a Bed & Breakfast Zoning Ordinance Amendment, refusing even to present my request to its general membership for fear of repercussions. All such, letting their self-interest win out over the public interest.
Over the years, for ulterior, politically-motivated reasons, resulting from my longtime public advocacy of governmental, especially, judicial reform, City Hall has made it crystal-clear that I am persona non grata. So, naturally it denies every thing I request,major or minor, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Consequently, it disapproves Bed and Breakfast as a permitted use, though my application involves a minimal increase in the number of rooms and roomers allowed for such usage and concomitant special events typically held at historic properties -- whether by Use Variance or by Amendment.
In past years, the City has likewise turned away a number of City-beneficial proposals that I or developers on my behalf, with written expressions of interest, have submitted to City Hall, for the property I have so long struggled to maintain for its historic value, making it now the largest privately-owned estate left intact in the Soundview Avenue neighborhood. Unlike the North Broadway area, where all the exquisite historic mansions have been demolished and the fine old estates have been cut up, and pieces of our American heritage forever gone with them.
Most recently as this past year, while my Use Variance Application was pending before the ZBA, a fabulous proposal for my property that would have made the City richer for it and my neighbors' homes far more valuable, by a developer trained in historic preservation. He would have left my historic house standing as I have long insisted, with my home remaining as a Bed & Breakfast centerpiece. I was told the City rejected it out of hand -- no discussion or reasons given. Was it because they were not within the circle of City-favored developers, represented by City-favored land use and zoning attorneys or was it because it was my property that was involved?
Either way, it's the same old familiar way those "in the know" know our City operates, the public interest taking second place, all the while the public officers who lead it, hypocritically, pretend otherwise, yet invariably favoring the politically-connected, more affluent few over the politically independent, meritorious, hard-working many.
Thus, at this time, prospects for passage of my proposed B&B Zoning Ordinance Amendment are far from assured. After two due process-less public hearings by the White Plains Zoning Board relating to my proposed Use Variance and two similarly due process-less Planning Board hearings related to my proposed Amendment, the score is zero on the Use Variance and zero on Reconsideration of its denial.
However, as to my proposed Amendment, at least as to form, we are half-way there. Thanks to my patience and persistence, miracle of miracles, I won the Common Council's unanimous approval of its Resolution dated January 3, 2012, calling for a Public Hearing to be held at its upcoming February 6, 2012 Stated Meeting.
At that time, I expect finally to be heard at a City Public Access Cable-televised public forum. Hopefully, this time, I will allowed to make my uninterrupted presentation in support of my proposed B&B Amendment so listening viewers will learn first-hand the true facts as to what I am proposing and why.
To be free of oppressive, disparate and otherwise unfair government taxation or excessive governmental restrictions on our constitutionally-protected right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is the American Dream our founders fought a Revolution for and what our Bill of Rights' "equal protection of the law" and "due process of law" was all about!
For me, sad to say, the American Dream turned into my American nightmare, one reason having particularly to do with the tax issue.
As the highest court of our land recognized early on, "the power to tax is the power to destroy.." It is long settled that a State may not use its power to tax by targeting those with whom it disagrees by a ruse that purports to treat all taxpayers, equally, but, in reality, impacts on only one.
For many years going back to 2002, then City Assessor, Edye McCarthy, appointed by Mayor Delfino in 1999, arbitrarily and without notice or hearing, obliged me to pay property taxes on my home, and still does -- as if my modest Bed & Breakfast, established in 1993, a perfectly lawful use, long recognized by our state law as residential in nature, uncomplained-of and unchallenged by the City for all the years previous, were a "commercial" enterprise, on a par with the Ritz Carlton.
My B&B was never money-making or money-driven, since its labor intensive nature and typically low occupancy rate invariably made it a less than profitable venture. Nonetheless, for me, it was "a labor of love," more a hobby than a business, my guests invariably gratifying my hospitality efforts by letting me know when they departed that it was their pleasurable stays at Soundview Manor that made them decide to accept jobs, buy homes, rent condos, send their children to schools, shop, dine, and enjoy entertainment here in White Plains, if not in the City, at least in the County -- and most important of all to me that they wanted to come back to Soundview Manor when they come this way again!
Nonetheless, ostensibly because of my Bed and Breakfast, but having more to do with reasons that were politically-motivated and retaliatory because of my public advocacy as Co-Founder and President of the Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc. (CJA) for a more just "justice" system, after conclusion and substantial settlement of a civil rights case I had brought back in 1986 against the City of White Plains, based on serious police, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, I noticed a substantial jump in my 2002 property assessment.
Oddly, City Assessor McCarthy adamantly refused to discuss it with me, despite my repeated efforts. I had made no major capital improvements and there had been no community-wide reassessment -- the only two reasons our local government can raise property taxes. I surmised she was relying on my B&B to sustain her radically increased assessment. However, it was obvious her mind was fixed and she still refused to consider any adjustment. Thatleft me no choice but to fight it.
With my knowledge of the law, I did so by a simplified, short-cut proceeding known as a SCAR (Small Claims Assessment Review). This speedy, inexpensive remedy is available to tax-aggrieved homeowners willing to agree that, if successful, recovery would be limited to a maximum assessment reduction of 25% of the challenged new assessed valuation.
Lo and behold, after several hearings at which Assessor McCarthy appeared, aided by an attorney from the Corporation Counsel's Office, since she was not a lawyer, and comprehensive submissions by myself and the Assessor, including Memoranda of Law, I WON a decision that very same summer from a Judicial Hearing Officer (JHO), a non-judge practicing lawyer, who ruled in my favor that my B&B did NOT change the property's residential character. He, therefore, directed a rollback, limited by the 25% stipulated, and refund of thousands of overpaid dollars, with interest.
Even with benefit of my stipulated 25% limitation of the monies to be refunded to me on my successful challenge, Assessor McCarthy did not take kindly to that defeat. Such only emboldened her to do an "end-run" around that adverse ruling, by surreptitiously altering the official property records to change its Code Classification from 210 One-family Home to 418 INN/LODGE -- a clever cover-up for the fact that her unilateral alteration of the property card in her office per se converted me from a 210 One Family homeowner into a 418 Inn/Lodge keeper.
Such alteration, which should have triggered ethical and criminal consequences on a charge of "tampering with public records, with intent to defraud,in the first degree,"under New York's Penal Law, was her alleged justification for subjecting me to a commercially-based property tax valuation, resulting in a tax not only higher than was my rightful residential due, but the highest of any other residential homeowners on my street or, for that matter, the entire Soundview area neighborhood -- who similarly had made no major capitol improvements, if any there were. Albeit I did not merit that distinction, successor Assessor Lloyd Tasch perpetuated Assessor McCarthy's misclassification, since he took over the office in 2007 to the present date -- notwithstanding my annually filed grievances and tax certiorari proceedings, challenging such blatant misclassification, all still unresolved.
The significance of the tax issue in the context of my proposed new B&B Zoning Ordinance must be understood -- because it so flagrantly exposes the City's retaliatory double standard modus operandi, by which the City targeted me for such disparate treatment. Here now, in 2012, some 10 years since Assessor McCarthy's "original sin," when she succeeded in snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat, her successor, Mr.Tasch, wholly and solely by virtue thereof, since 2007 on has continued to make me pay the City each year many thousands of my hard-earned tax dollars, to which he and the City knows,as a matter of law, it is NOT entitled.
As if that knowing and deliberate fraud were not enough, adding insult to injury, after the effective date of the City's new Hotel Occupancy law on October 1, 2009, City Finance Commissioner, Michael A. Genito erroneously, illegally and unconstitutionally, with knowledge of my vehement objections and protests, caused me to become its "tax collector." So, I was, and still are, additionally burdened with the obligation to collect Hotel Occupancy taxes, remit payment thereof and file sworn Hotel Occupancy Tax returns. Such, incidentally, also served to make the City aware of the minimal nature of my bed and breakfast operation due to its low occupancy rate and the minuscule income so produced. Would that I only had the Ritz Carlton's income, I would be more than happy to pay the City's Hotel Occupancy taxes! "Aye, there's the rub," I do not.
At the very same time the City of White Plains unjustly enriched itself at my expense and continues to do so in the new 2012 tax year, based on its oppressive, retaliatory and punitive over-assessment and misclassification of my home -- purchased by me in 1980 and regularly used by me and my family as such -- as a commercial INN/LODGE/HOTEL on its Assessor's and Finance Commissioner's official records. Yet, all the while the City's Building Commissioner rendered, his so-called "automatic denial" of my Use Variance application filed last May, he, no less unconscionably, unconstitutionally and unfairly, summarily denied my sign application filed by me for the first time in 18 years of use as a B&B in conjunction with my Use Variance Application.
Resigned, as I was, to the reality that my "commercial" property tax status was encased in cement, do you think it unreasonable to ask the City also to confer on me the benefit of an appropriately designed sign to identify the property as a "Historic Bed & Breakfast," or, at very least as a "Historic Site" -- an exalted honor the City should have been pleased and proud to have displayed.
Either would have helped my bed and breakfast generate more City-taxable income, so as to enable this senior citizen to more easily pay the City's unjust commercially-based property taxes. Interestingly, because I never even had a B&B sign out front, most of my neighbors never knew of my bed and breakfast until receipt of the required written notice of my newly filed Use Variance Application that I had to give neighbors within 200 feet of my home. Only then did I get to meet a neighbor of mine whose home was close to the rear end of my property, which is more than three City blocks in depth. I was gratified to hear her say how much she wished she had known sooner of my B&B, as she would have loved to have had her holiday visiting relatives from Canada stay at Soundview Manor, "rather than let them sleep on the pull-out sofa in the living room because [she had] a full house and that was all [she had] to offer."
So, yes, indeed, a sign could help ameliorate the economic hardship inflicted on me by the City's excessive taxation of my property under a commercially based classification? Yes, indeed, absolutely! A sign could definitely help me help more of my neighbors in need of our accommodations than I already have helped over the years -- as well as help grow my B&B so it could become a successful small business that would be eligible for governmentally guaranteed small business loans, now being avidly promoted for the benefit of women and minority group actual or prospective business owners, of which I am one, being both a woman and a Jew.
Like tax certiorari proceedings, appellate review, whether of judicial or administrative conduct, is costly and can take years, as it has for me, with many years of such proceedings still unresolved, due to the enormous backlogs created by the vast number of such filings, not to mention the discrimination against me in our local courthouse.
To ensure that whatever I did met all governmental requirements, I followed to the letter the advice I received from the Building Department assigned staff person, who confirmed to me that all I needed was to file an application for a Use Variance. Under NYS law (NYS Residential Code, 202), all residential home owners in our state have the right to offer up to five rooms and up to ten double occupancy for bed and breakfast.
In contrast, the White Plains Zoning Ordinance is completely silent as to bed and breakfast use, neither expressly prohibiting or permitting it, although in its definitional reference to "customary home occupations," with no mention of B&Bs, it names specific exclusions, with no reference to bed and breakfast among them. By legal rules of construction, such use is, therefore, impliedly permitted.
White Plains already has a "two room, two roomer" exception for every One Family residential homeowner in a residential district. Thus, my request for a variance to increase the number of bedrooms offered for bed and breakfast from two to five and the number of roomers from two to 10, as allowed by such state law provision -- encompassing double occupancy, an important consideration for bed and breakfast use to thrive -- would be an appropriate variance.
Adding a B& B component is then just a matter of semantics. So, there should have been no controversy whatever as to my minor Bed and Breakfast Use Variance Application, eminently fair for a Bed and Breakfast with an 18-year five-star track record, without a single complaint by neighbors prior thereto. Nonetheless, as the accompanying Planning Board videos show, that did NOT happen because of the City's unconstitutionally-violative and abusive behavior, non-compliant with its own controlling rules, not to mention elementary Robert's Rules of Order, resulting in its wrongful denial of my Use Variance application for no defensible reason.
After nine months of Sturm und Drang that sent me to a hospital ER three times in less than a 30 day period in May and June last year, I was, thus, obliged to start all over again from square one with my proposed Amendment, which should finally come to a head at the upcoming February 6, 2011 Public Hearing.
My proposed Amendment, cast as it is in the context of historic preservation of homes listed on the National and NY State Registers of Historic Places, is in the more restricted form specifically suggested and approved by the City's Planning Commissioner and Law Department Board and its Law Department, applicable only to historic homes in the I-30 residential zones, adjoining a non-residential user, such as mine. I accepted their suggested floodgate conditions to control what it otherwise projected might be a flood of bed and breakfast applications from homeowners all over the City, which it the did not want.
Of course, adoption of my proposed B&B Amendment might well be the breakthrough that would incentivize similarly qualified historic homeowners in White Plains, (the seat of Westchester County, claimed to be the seat of the Revolutionary government when The Battle of White Plains was fought in late 1776 and George Washington made his headquarters in the Jacob Purdy house, now home to the White Plains Historical Society) to get started on the process that results in such high honor for their homes and to do all in their power to keep them standing as part of our American heritage.
That would avoid the loss of all the beautiful old private estates and historic mansions like mine, that are now extinct -- precisely because there were no such incentives or other encouragement given by this City to keep them standing. Instead, such were given to the developers who plainly profit more by tearing them down and building huge, high density residential and commercial towers.
Adoption can also serve as a model for the Council in considering enactment of other legislative amendments to aid financially-pressed residential homeowners, historic or not, who may find Bed & Breakfast throughout the City a helpful and happy lifeline solution to those endangered by potential loss of their homes, their connections with family and friends here, as well as the other White Plains roots they love and don't want to leave -- like so many of our City who have already become dismal statistics in the mass exodus that we have seen take place in recent years all over our State. With the ground I have broken, they should find the way a lot easier.
Passage of my proposed Amendment would bring our City into line with has been and is happening all over our State and country and left White Plains far behind, a trend supported by legal authority in other states I cited to the City, as well as staggering statistics I provided. For example, the New York Visitors network now lists more than 400 Bed and Breakfasts in its data bank. The Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII) lists "more than 17,000 across the country." That includes towns, villages, cities and counties.
Can they all be out of step but the City of White Plains? Isn't it high time for White Plains to WAKE UP and recognize, as PAII's studies across the United States show, that "the B&B industry now has an estimated worth of $3.4 billions" and that it is an integral part of the surging hospitality and tourism industry, feeding the economy with revenue and jobs wherever they are shown to exist, branching out to be the desired destination for millions and millions of travelers, both domestic and international. Real estate, finance, insurance, hospitality, furniture, food and beverage, cleaning, safety, heating and cooling... the list is endless."
It is not only the financially-needy taxpaying homeowners who can be aided by my proposed Amendment. Why shouldn't all our taxpaying citizenry enjoy that kind of economic boon in our City too, now when it so desperately needs that kind of "shot in the arm?" How can our City justify denial of such a "win-win" boost to our economy that would not only benefit the taxpaying homeowners involved, but the entire community?
And, indeed, hard as it is, and has been, for me to pioneer that important concept, Soundview Manor has led the way all these years and shown, many times over, that its B&B can fill, and has already filled important needs for its appreciative citizenry, including its many neighboring Houses of Worship, so profoundly important to our society -- needs that are daily growing, with the potential of generating hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs and thousands, if not millions, of dollars in revenue for our financially "broke" City of White Plains.
Its increasingly disheartened and angry citizens, who have already taken to the streets to protest the City's onerous and callous conduct, would then have something extremely exciting to look forward to, take pride in, and be enriched by, that will offer them, at last, a timely untapped and valuable fiscal resource, beneficial for the City that Mayor Roach is now actively promoting as a "destination site." As Soundview Manor's Guest Books show, it, long ago, achieved that status, with countless visitors from many states across the nation and from many countries all over the world, ready to book two years in advance or plan their trips around its availability and willing to wait, if they must, just to be sure they can stay at Soundview Manor when they arrive.
Soundview Manor has thus already proven itself worthy of the City's blessing of its 18-year perfectly lawful Bed and Breakfast use. For the economic good of White Plains, Westchester County and beyond, it should be helped to continue its "destination site" status with the meaningful encouragement of this City. At this financially bleak moment in time, there simply is no legitimate excuse or justification for the City of White Plains not to adopt my proposed Amendment -- if Mayor Roach is sincere in his announced "destination site" promotion and in his all too true statement at the January 3 Common Council Meeting that our City "does not have enough historic buildings" and needs to protect and preserve them.
Historic Soundview Manor is one that future generations can and should enjoy, for which goal, this Bed & Breakfast homeowner should be commended and congratulated, not criticized or castigated, for her fervent desire to make that possible.
Otherwise, my vision, hopes and dreams, focused all these past years on leaving a lasting legacy to the City, not to mention my heavy personal investment in my home for more than three decades, will all go down with the house, when I am given no City encouragement and left no economically viable choice. In that case, alas, all too soon they will be, like Tara, "Gone with the Wind."
Time is of the essence now. The imminent approach of the Public Hearing at the Common Council's Stated Meeting on February 6, 2012, at 7:30 p.m. will, at long last, give me the opportunity be heard at a City Pubic Access Cable-televised public forum, when, hopefully, I will have the long-awaited opportunity to make an uninterrupted presentation in support of my proposed B&B Zoning Ordinance Amendment, the first item on its Public Hearing Agenda.
Meantime, I need your collective help to tide me over, in any form whatever, including your signing my online Petition, until victory in my ongoing "David and Goliath" struggle to keep afloat and continue to pay Soundview Manor's crushing property taxes, and astronomical costs of heating, house and grounds care, with no dependable incoming revenue to cover. Adoption of my proposed Amendment at the Feb 6, 2012 Public Hearing is only the first step, but a giant one. Needless to say, the same help that makes that possible will be needed beyond that, at least, until the present financial crisis is surmounted.
To all you caring, concerned and compassionate soul mates, who, by word and deed, help me keep the faith and flame of freedom burning bright, a million thanks for answering my S.O.S. and warmest wishes for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2012!!!
READ ON for Chapter and Verse, detailing my long, arduous uphill struggle to prove that, with YOUnity, We the People CAN "fight City Hall" -- and WIN a righteous common goal!
You may have wondered why, despite my successful 2002 SCAR proceeding, establishing that my B&B was not a "change of use" that would change the property classification from its historic "residential" to "commercial" did not end the matter.
The answer was that, due to the 25% limitation on the Judicial Hearing Officer (JHO)-determined refundable amount, required as a pre-condition to the 2002 SCAR proceeding, my victory did not automatically restore to my property its historical "residential" assessment, based on its "One Family Home," 210 classification number under the Residential Code. For that, I had to bring another SCAR proceeding the next year, that would have reduced the assessment that much more.
However, this time, I had a wholly different and unexpected outcome. Without explanation, my prompt SCAR Petition was removed from the original JHO, who had favorably decided my 2002 SCAR Petition, to whom my second one was initially assigned, as normal and customary because of the intertwined common issues of law and fact.
Surprise, surprise, this time, my case was quickly re-assigned to another JHO, a retired judge, more responsive to City Hall's mandates than this taxpayer's rights. Naturally, he just happened to be a friend and political ally of Supreme Court Judge Francis A. Nicolai, then Administrative Judge of the 9th Judicial District (including Westchester). detailed and documented in my 20-year Autobiographical Retrospective) is his bias toward me toward me resulting from the Election Law case of Castracan & Bonelli, as pro bono publico v. Colavita, Nicolai, et al., (castracan-v-colavita) I brought against then 10-year term Westchester County Court Judge Nicolai, one of the 12 named parties to the case, for his role as a participant in, and direct beneficiary, of the infamous,unprecedented and convoluted 1989 three-year, seven-judge judicial cross endorsements Deal between the Republican and Democratic political bosses of the 9th Judicial District (including Westchester).Deal, guaranteeing his election in 1990 to a 14-year term on the state Supreme Court from that District.
Many other sitting judges in the Westchester Courthouse still harbor animus toward me for exposing the corrupt 1989 judicial cross-endorsements political deal from which they or their good judicial friends and colleagues personally benefited and over the years, have failed and refused to recuse themselves from my cases or have retaliated against me by behind-the-scenes manipulation so that I have lost many cases I rightfully should have won.
Thus, at the very first and only conference had on the second SCAR proceeding, this replacement JHO summarily dismissed my SCAR proceeding, on the Assessor's assertion, documented by her previously altered, without notice, official property record, that my property was classified as "commercial," albeit that was the very fact in dispute and had already been adjudicated in my favor just the year before, after several hearings and extensive written submissions by me, including a compelling Memorandum of Law.
I then had no alternative but to seek remedial action by the more time-consuming and costly tax certiorari route, I had hoped to avoid, requiring my retention of a tax certiorari lawyer-specialist, rather than my appearing pro se in an informal quasi-judicial proceeding, as I infinitely preferred because of the hostile manner in which I was being treated in the Westchester Courthouse.
After years of civic activism and public advocacy as a "judicial whistleblower," I learned early on, at a very steep price, I knew only too well I could not expect justice in that Courthouse, neither in the White Plains City Courthouse because of the unrelenting "vendetta" against me for exposing the absolute corruptness of "the 1989 Three Year Deal," which the party bosses window-dressed with "good government" language to defraud the electorate to believe it was in its best interest to be disenfranchised -- all detailed and documented at the aforecited judgewatch.org link.
Since then, year after year, my lawyer tax certiorari specialist filed the requisite legal papers, challenging the City's knowingly false and illegal tax assessments, resulting from the wrongfully generated aforesaid behind-the-scenes manipulation at the Courthouse, precluding me from filing further SCAR proceedings. However, these tax certiorari proceedings still remain unresolved.
The legal maxim "justice delayed is justice denied,"was coined with good reason. I have effectively been denied redress for the fraud perpetrated on me by this City, financial relief I have sought from 2003 -- the year after I WON on the issue I raised by my initial SCAR, I have been triply punished, once by the Assessor's original dishonesty in reassessing my private home, which gave the City the opening to collect money not due under false pretenses, based on her baseless claim that my Bed & Breakfast made it commercial, without my being affording due notice and hearing beforehand so as to challenge such increase and false underlying premise, administratively, twice for Assessor McCarthy's felonious tampering with the public records of her so as to falsify them by deliberate misclassification of my private home as a public INN/LODGE/HOTEL and thrice by the City's continuing and ongoing refusal to expressly include Bed & Breakfast definitionally in its outdated White Plains Zoning Ordinance, in light of all my years of grievances, protests, and tax certiorari proceedings pending, when subsequent updates in the Zoning Ordinance were made.
As Mayor Roach and Common Council should know from the documents I submitted to the ZBA on October 5, 2011, as Exhibit 1 to my Affidavit in support of my Use Variance Application, which are part of the record of its October 5, 2011 denial thereof, such included copies of my correspondence with then Mayor Delfino, his then Corporation Counsel, Ed Dunphy and his Building Commissioner Michael Gismondi, as well as numerous unanswered FOIL requests going back to March 2004, complaining of the harassing conduct of Building Inspector Tony Magnotta and making several requests at that time for a meeting to resolve the City's concerns so as to save taxpayers' money, my own included.
Such Exhibit containing my fax dated April 26, 2004 to Mayor Delfino shows that instead of the Mayor or his appointed public officials answering such reasonable requests, the City's response was to bring on a criminal zoning enforcement proceeding in City Court. This was done without prior notice of or hearing on the alleged violation, by purported service on a never-explained Sunday, April 25, 2004, of an Appearance Ticket, dated April 18, 2004, signed by one Tony Magnotta (whom, I believe, lay in wait for me for nearly two hours outside a local restaurant a few blocks away, where I had dinner that night, to come out and head over to the car that had taken me there) to make his purported service. The Appearance Ticket identified Magnotta as "Special Police Officer" and was addressed to Soundview Trust c/o Doris L.Sassower, Defendant. The Appearance Ticket required "the defendant," singular, to appear in City Court the next day, i.e., on April 27, 2004, for "a violation of the White Plains Zoning Code on 6/16/03 and continuing," the only specified date was nearly a year before (emphasis added). The ticket bore the following all-cap warning "UPON YOUR FAILURE TO APPEAR AT THE TIME AND PLACE HEREIN MENTIONED A WARRANT MAY BE ISSUED FOR YOUR ARREST FOR THE CRIME OR OFFENSE HEREIN CHARGED was, without explanation, in fact, not made until the following Sunday, i.e., April 25, 2004. At such time, I gave notice to the Court that I would not appear because there was no jurisdiction over me, as I was NOT the named defendant.
My absence from the Courtroom on the indicated April 27, 2004 return date was followed up with an INFORMATION, also signed by Magnotta, as Senior Building/Housing Code Enforcement Officer, the Complainant, that very day, as shown by Exhibit 1, describing my home as "also known as ...", giving its section, block and lot number "on the current tax assessment map of the City of White Plains," thereby inferentially indicating its likely instigation by Tax Assessor Edye McCarthy. Mr. Magnotta signed and affirmed such document "on information and belief,"that defendant did violate Section 4.1.1 of the Zoning Ordinance in that the defendant operates the premises referred to by defendant as"Soundview Manor as a "bed and breakfast" or "tourist house" or "rooming house, which is not a permitted use in an RI-30 Zone." However, the Corporation Counsel put such words in Magnotta's mouth because there is absolutely nothing in that quoted Zoning Ordinance Section says that!
Thus, even apart from my procedural law-based jurisdictional objections, these ludicrous documents on their face, were also dismissible, as a matter of law for failing to state, with specificity, a prosecutable crime on direct personal knowledge, in violation of fundamental criminal law. Nonetheless, due to the City's relentless prosecution of this baseless, so-called "crime," which, although based on the date of occurrence indicated in the Appearance Ticket signed by Mr. Magnotta, delayed for nearly a year, the City treated as if it were a major criminal case, in which I was repeatedly threatened with arrest and issuance of a bench warrant for such purpose, if I did not attend scheduled court dates, when I requested any adjournment.
In sheer disgust with the gross official misconduct of City-paid public officers, I decided to market my property and, meantime, to pursue a Zoning Amendment so as to define Bed & Breakfast as an expressly permitted accessory use, thereby obviating a trial.
I did, in fact, make such request at the untelevised, three-minute limited Citizens' Half Hour, immediately preceding its June 6, 2005 Common Council Meeting, when I presented my 2005 proposed RESOLUTION for B&B Zoning Amendment, emphasizing the importance of historic preservation. Our present Democratic Mayor Tom Roach, himself a lawyer, then Council President and Roach's successor to be, still serving as now Councilman, Ben Boykin, heard, with deaf ears, my plea for adoption of such proposed B&B Amendment.
In my 2005 Resolution, I also contrasted the discriminatory, targeted treatment to which I was then being subjected to, with the favorable treatment being given to the two adjacent Houses of Worship, Bet Am Shalom and the then Assembly of G-d church, now Westchester Christian Worship Center, located on the entire eastern border of my property, as well as the third one adjoining the Church, Temple Israel. Their facilities were undergoing massive expansions as to which I and, on information and belief, other similarly affected private home owning neighbors, were never even given prior requisite written notice, as I had been required to give to all neighbors within 200 feet of my premises, in order to commence my modest Use Variance Application, with low adverse impact to such neighboring homeowners.
Their plans included demolition and rebuilding of existing buildings, having severe negative impact in the millions on the value and quiet enjoyment of my and other neighboring properties because of the many thousands of people and the many hundreds of cars they were designed to accommodate.
Besides the traffic congestion and parking problems experienced because of such approved construction, my entire Eastern border, a beautiful woodlands of stately old trees and shrubs had been wholly desecrated, despoiled and displaced by unobstructed views of the parking lots of the two adjacent Houses of Worship, without adequate provision made for replacement of protective, aesthetic landscaping to screen their parking lots from my property.
I had, in fact, previously presented my concerns about the Houses of Worship plans in a community-beneficial written Proposal, orally presented by me at the Comprehensive Plan Review Committee meeting at White Plains High School on March 29, 2005. Like my pleas to the Mayor and Common Council, such were totally ignored, with never a word spoken then or thereafter concerning that subject by the White Plains Comprehensive Plan Review Committee.
The Council understood that the purpose of my proposed 2005 B&B Resolution was to moot the City's spurious pending 2004 City Court proceeding, wherein its Corporation Counsel was prosecuting a concocted violation of the White Plains Zoning Ordinance in its City Court, with potential misdemeanor consequences. It also knew that I was bitterly contesting such prosecution, predicated as it was, on Soundview Manor's never-before complained of or challenged by the City or any private party, openly advertised Bed & Breakfast use from 1993 on -- with no notice of violation or other warning ever given me as the resident homeowner prior to the City's commencement thereof. The City Zoning Ordinance was unconstitutionally written and as applied to me and my property.
It was my position then and still is that the City's failure to provide a definition even acknowledging such usage, neither expressly permitting nor prohibiting it -- made the City's purported reliance on a supposed "catch-all" that "all uses not expressly permitted, are prohibited" an abomination in a democratic society that prizes freedom. Only in a police state government like Nazi Germany is everything VERBOTEN that is not expressly permitted.
Therefore, to claim my B&B was unlawful, where there was no express prohibition against it, without showing that its police power compelled its protection, required by public health or safety, which was never asserted, nor could such contention have ever been sustained in the absence of any private complainant, was an anathema and an actionable defamation.
Apart from my meritorious legal defenses, Mayor Delfino and the then members of the Common Council also knew that I had been contesting the City Court criminal complaint since its inception more than a year earlier in 2004 as jurisdictionally void for reasons that were a sad and serious commentary on the competence of the Corporation Counsel -- not to mention on Presiding Senior City Court Judge Jo Ann Friia.
In face of the non-existent jurisdictional foundation for the City's case, Judge Friia, nonetheless, failed and refused to rule on my legal objections presented orally, by letter and memorandum of law on my motion to dismiss and the Affirmation of my experienced real estate legal advisor who accompanied me to court, but never formally appeared, as neither did I, in order to avoid any claim that I had waived my jurisdictional objections. Of course, we stated on the record that our presence in the courtroom was without prejudice and as a friend of the Court.
Nonetheless, pressed on by Senior Assistant Corporation Counsel Joseph Hanneberry's insistence on trial of the case before Judge Friia, who, as Presiding Senior Judge, had pre-empted the case from a more kindly disposed City Court Judge, who, early on, hearing my position at my special appearance, set, had made clear her view that the threshold jurisdictional issue I raised, had to addressed by the Corporation Counsel, or he would get his "marching orders."
Plainly, if my legal position were sustained, dismissal of the City's concocted case was mandated. I proposed a stipulated adjournment, predicated on my anticipated sale of my already then on-the-market house or my intended proposed Resolution to the Common Council to amend the Zoning Law expressly including Bed & Breakfast in the City's Zoning Ordinance Definitions section, since it was otherwise "a trap for the unwary," including myself, who, in 1993, had offered Bed & Breakfast accommodations at the urging of the Westchester Bed & Breakfast Association and in good faith reliance on the NYS Residential Code 202 provision expressly permitting such usage.
My Proposed 2005 Bed & Breakfast Zoning Amendment Resolution would have expressly recognized Bed & Breakfast use as the historically recognized lawful residential use that it is, and always was, long before Zoning laws were enacted, but which, for palpably politically-motivated and malicious reasons, was, knowingly being misapplied to my case -- with a vengeance!
In either event, the criminal proceeding would have been mooted and the City taxpayers spared the costs of a wasteful, meaningless trial of the City's bad faith case.
What made the City's case even more unconscionable was the shocking, shameful and scandalous fact that it was a dishonest and fraudulent "set-up" -- brought not on written complaint of an injured private party, but on its own initiative. Presumably on authorization by the Mayor and the Common Council, the Corporation Counsel actually went to the extent of contracting for the services of a NY licensed Detective to conduct a "sting operation" at Soundview Manor, at a taxpayer cost of some $14,000 (I kid you not!) for the Detective, his wife, and another couple who were friends of theirs, to spend a Friday and Saturday weekend at Soundview Manor, not counting the cost of all court and related City personnel and courtroom time for the hundreds of hours over the more than two-year period it took to bring it to conclusion! That did not happen until 2007, when Judge Friia rendered her so-called "Decision After Trial."
So, did the City get any value for that outrageous use of taxpayers' hard-earned money? Absolutely NOT! Although Judge Friia's referred to the wholly improper and perjurious testimony of the Detective and other witnesses in my absence, and therefore not subjected to cross examination, who gave incompetent hearsay testimony, as she should have herself recognized and excluded. However, "The Court's Decision," contained therein, consisting of nine lines," rested on legal conclusions, patently false and erroneous, relating to an issue not pleaded in the INFORMATION. Such complained only of bed and breakfast usage at Soundview Manor, to which I freely stipulated, and did not need to prove such by the mere fact of its advertising such use on its website, proving nothing but that fact, limited as it was, to the lawful residential usage, as found by a Judicial Hearing Officer in my 2002 SCAR proceeding.
Instead, disregarding a multitude of serious criminal and civil matters awaiting trial and over my repeated requests for her recusal for demonstrated bias and conflict of interest, Judge Friia thereafter knowingly proceeded to trial, in my absence, even after denying requested adjournment on medical grounds. This, in a jurisdictionally defective concocted criminal proceeding built on a City-made complaint in 2004 based on alleged B&B usage in June 2003, by a City employee with no personal knowledge of the facts. Judge Friia's underlying political motivation, i.e., to ensure herself reappointment by the Mayor and confirmation by the Common Council when her City Court term expired in 2006, made it immaterial that she would be rendering a meaningless, non-binding void Decision, wherein, nonetheless, the judicial power was abused repeatedly, including threats, complete with a bench warrant and arrest, if I did not appear.
This, doubtless, was also intended to intimidate me from contesting the Assessor's fraudulent reclassification of my historic classification of my one-family home as commercial." Tellingly, Judge Friia did not render her decision until January, 2007 -- AFTER she was safely ensconced in office on her induction for another 10-year term as Senior City Court Judge.
Her Honor's pivotal role in such senseless, self-interested squandering of taxpayers' money in the City's years long criminal proceeding, to no legitimate end, was, identified by me in my Three Minute Statement at the Citizens' Half Hour preceding the Common Council's December 4, 2006 Stated Meeting, the subject of another public service appearance by me. This time my Statement, with my more relevant professional judicial reform credentials, identified at the outset, my personal and organizational opposition to Judge Friia's pending confirmation of her reappointment to another 10-year term on the City Court.
Instead of expressing appreciation for the public service I was attempting to do for the City, the Common Council wrongly took the position that my statement was a "personal attack" and shamelessly aborted my intended presentation before I had even finished my three-minute time, unceremoniously precluding me from speaking further and from providing details and documentation as to her judicial unfitness, which I had proffered.
Such absolute unfitness is borne out by the official file of the aforesaid criminal case, then still pending decision by her (summoning up all my courage to speak out as a patriotic public service, putting aside my self-interest, naturally adding to my trepidation, anticipating the predictable repercussions she would inflict upon me) validated my professional opinion that her judicial conduct would "warrant her immediate removal." That conclusion was obvious not only from her open mistreatment of me in her courtroom and from my verification of the City's undemocratic sham judicial nominating and confirmation process, exemplified by Judge Friia's unmerited political nomination, intertwined as it was with the systemic and rampant corruption of the judicial process here in White Plains and Westchester, birthplace of the Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc.(CJA).
Closing their eyes and ears to my attempted, but aborted presentation, then Council President, now Mayor Roach, and all other Council members, swiftly voted, unanimously, on their pre-scripted "rubber-stamped" confirmation of her City Court re-appointment by then Republican Mayor Delfino immediately before the Stated Meeting, at which her Induction ceremony was the first order of business on its Agenda. Such made it crystal-clear that, in adherence to its standard "modus operandi," there was no intention to brook any opposition to what was already a fait accompli.
This bitter personal experience with the City's unconcealed hostility to "judicial whistleblowers" who speak out for the public interest in an impartial and independent judiciary, was replicated, even more egregiously, when my CJA co-founder, true patriot Director daughter, Elena Ruth Sassower and I came to present our Three-Minute Statements at the Citizens' Half Hour preceding the May 4, 2009 Common Council Meeting in opposition to confirmation of then Democratic Mayor Bradley's appointment of Part Time City Court Brian Hansbury to a full-time, 10-year term on the White Plains City Court. Despite the fact that our opposition was made known to then Mayor Bradley and to the Commoni Council. Such included now Mayor Roach, then President of the Common Council and Ben Boykin, who thereafter succeeded him as Council President, since re-elected to another full four-year term, all of whom blithely proceeded "full steam ahead."
That incident only further showed that our local government is more interested in protecting the corrupters of our justice system than in safeguarding the free speech rights of public advocates working to expose their dishonest practices. See Welcoming Sunshine! The CORRUPT JUDICIAL APPOINTMENT PROCESS TO WHITE PLAINS CITY COURT
For all the aforesaid and other compelling reasons having to do with the economic hardship this City government has wrongly inflicted upon me, I applied last year for relief in the form of a Use Variance application, per advice of the City Building Department, to establish, and minimally increase my Bed & Breakfast usage from two rooms, to five rooms, as every White Plains homeowner in residential zones is allowed to rent out for Bed & Breakfast usage.
Considering the huge size of my home and land, I did not expect that most modest application, would be denied, and so unfairly, after two degrading due process-less Public Hearings, the first on July 6, 2011, or that they would be deliberately derailed by Chair Bikkall's Council President Boykin, who, as a Candidate for re-election, opportunistically used Judge Friia's Decision to his political advantage, unethically abusing his public office by his partisan opposition of my Use Variance Application at the ZBA hearing on that date, as he continued to do thereafter, to promote himself as a candidate for re-election, and defaming me in the process.
Disrupting my presentation before its completion, ZBA Chair Cecilia Bikkal said she wanted to hear from opposition speakers, including Boykin, and denied my request that she administer an oath, after stating she had no power to do so, that she had been on the Board for many years and never heard of such a thing. Even after I cited the pertinent provision of the Board's own rules so empowering her, she did not acknowledge her error and refused to do so. Her bias was so profound that, incredibly, she allowed Councilman Boykin to unethically abuse his public office by expressing his false opinions and use a document he referred to as Judge Friia's "Decision" to engage in deliberate and damaging defamation of my character and reputation by asserting, falsely, that I had been ,convicted by the City Court earlier that year of running an illegal bed and breakfast, wrongfully denying me my right to cross-examine him so as to show, irrefutably, the absolute falsity of such deliberate smear.
Over my objection, ZBA Chair Bikkal not only denied my right to complete my presentation, which she knew I had NOT finished, before improperly interrupting me so as to allow opposition speakers to be heard before the completion of my case. Such included Councilman Boykin, who unethically abused his office to lead opposition, as she was doubtless aware, to my Use Variance Application by his defamatory and malicious mischaracterization of Judge Friia's void, politically-motivated and biased decision, but allow me to refute same by rebuttal evidence.
Similarly as to statements by neighbors, led on by then Council President, now Councilman Boykin, identified with a purported "Soundview Area Neighborhood Association," which similarly operates illegally and undemocratically, to present similar fabricated, baseless, incompetent and immaterial unsworn statements, as to which Chair Bikkal further denied my right to cross-examine or rebut such non-probative evidence, as well as the right to sum up my presentation and thereby give me the last word, to which the proponent is entitled by law.
ZBA Chair Bikkal further allowed a Board Member, who had not even made the required field visit to my home, to use Judge Friia's worthless decision to support the postponement of the ZBA's July 6, 2012 Public Hearing by adjournment to another date, predicated on a presumed need for further investigation and report -- as if such negative information were dispositive, let alone legally relevant.
Over my objection and despite my plea for an expedited adjourned hearing date of an application based on economic hardship, such did not occur until the ZBA's October 5, 2012 Meeting -- more than three months later. Not one word on the subject was reported back by Chair Bikkal. Neither did she then allow me to be heard so as to prove Councilman Boykin's statements to be the gross lie and defamation they were. I brought with me to the hearing that night, which, significantly, Councilman Boykin did not bother to attend so as to hear my rebuttal comments, supported by the voluminous documentation I brought with me and submitted to Chair Bikkal for distribution to the Board members. Such included copies of my extensive correspondence and unanswered FOIL requests, showing, irrefutably, that City Court Judge Jo Ann Friia's decision was a legal nullity and that there was a complete breakdown in our City government, which was entirely complicit in the perversion of justice that had taken place.
Despite the fact that neither ZBA Chair Bikkal nor her fellow Board Members read such documents, which I was not even allowed to identify or discuss before she called for a motion to close the Hearing -- the signal for one of the Board Members to read a pre- prepared, due process-less, politically-motivated and blatantly biased one -- adopted unanimously.
For that reason and because of my deep and abiding belief in the democratic process, I had taken the time and made the huge personal effort to come and present my allowed Three-Minute Statement at the Citizens' Half Hour, to the Common Council at its pre-Election Day Meeting on 11/7/11 and again on 12/5/11, untelevised though they were -- in contravention of the City's professed commitment to transparency.
I protested the egregious conduct of the ZBA Chair and Planning Board, in unjustly denying my Use Variance application. Yet, neither the Mayor nor Common Council, specifically including then Council President-Candidate for re-election, Ben Boykin, saw fit to address, let alone rectify or apologize for, the undemocratic official misconduct I complained of, not the least being then Council President Ben Boykin's repeated defamation of me, based on Judge Friia's egregious Jan 19,2007 Decision, notwithstanding his knowledge of its worthlessness.
Nonetheless, Candidate Councilman Boykin was re-elected, due to local media falsification, distortion, and suppression of the true facts. Is it any wonder that this City government views itself as NOT accountable for how it treats, rather mistreats, its long-suffering citizenry?
Let not that abysmal history repeat itself with my proposed Bed & Breakfast Zoning Ordinance Amendment, now on the City's February 6, 2012 Agenda. Hopefully, the successful ultimate outcome of that Amendment will rest on supporters like YOU!