A status report from Goshen attorney Michael Sussman

I have been getting many contacts from people concerned about the status of the Government Center. I have a responsibility to advise all of you of the facts. You can form your own judgments. So, here goes:

On July 2, 2015, I filed a second challenge to the Neuhaus proposal to demolish Division 2 and remove the entire facade from the Government Center. The challenge is based on SEQRA, a law which requires those engaged in major development/ renovation to study the environmental effects of their proposed action, identify significant effects and explain how these will be mitigated. In addition, proponents of a plan must show how it compares, from an environmental perspective, with alternatives.

In this instance, on behalf of a local resident, Mr. Eugene Degan, and the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation and its Chair, Ernst Wagner, I filed an Order to Show Cause, a Verified petition and a Brief which argued that a court should enjoin or stop the demolition activities which the County claimed were imminent because the County had failed to do a proper environmental review. Amongst other issues we raised were the following: [a] the county claimed that it would demolish 4400 TONS of concrete, but, in reality, demolition would exceed 9000 TONS of concrete and other building materials; apart from not recognizing the magnitude of its own project, the County failed to study the environmental effects, particularly the noise and air pollution so occasioned. Instead, the county's environmental review states that there will be no heavy equipment used during the demolition, no noise or air pollution...In addition, when a developer disturbs more than one acre of soil, it needs to apply for an receive a SPDES permit from the DEC. Here, the county never even sought such a permit and spuriously denies that adding 340 parking spots to the old jail site, which is now vacant grassland, will cause a disturbance to soil, requiring such a permit. Our experts have determined that more than 2.5 acres will be disturbed. There are other problems, but these are the most significant.

So, we wanted to explain to a judge why the county should not be permitted to proceed with its project until it completed proper envrironmental reviews. We also intended to argue that there is a viable alternative to this proposal which would have none of the same environmental impacts.

So what happened:

July 2- we filed out papers and I wrote the chief administrative judge indicating that we had an urgent application - to stop imminent demolition - and that we needed to have a judge assigned promptly.

July 2 - 4 pm - I receive a call from a clerk from the Orange County Supreme Court informing me that the "duty judge" had declined to sign our request for a stay, crossed it out, but then recused or disqualified herself from the case. The clerk told me the case would be reassigned to another judge in Kingston and that she would make sure he received the papers I had filed by the following Monday, July 6.

July 6-9 - We hear nothing from anyone; the Judge in Kingston does not contact me to schedule argument on my request for a stay of demolition pending resolution of my request for a more permanent injunction against demolition.

July 9 - I write the Judge in Kingston and ask him to set dates so the parties can state their positions on my request for a stay.

July 10 - I receive a call from the chief administrative judge's office acknowledging that I had sought the prompt assignment of a judge but advising that no judge had yet been assigned, though the kingston judge would be and then could re-consider my request for a stay of demolition.

July 13-14 I hear nothing from the judge.

July 15 - i again write the Judge asking him to set dates so we can argue for a stay. At about 330 this afternoon, the Judge's staff called and the Judge advised both lawyers that while he anticipated that he would be assigned to the case, the order so assigning him has not yet reached him.

So, we are now two weeks after I filed for an injunction. I have not been able to make my case to a Judge. We have no legal closure and have had no schedule set for consideration of my motion for a stay.

These are the facts. If anyone has any questions, shoot.

Michael Sussman