WEST NEW YORK – West New York Zoning Board chairman Kenneth Blane halted a vote to memorialize a resolution that approved a 13-story high rise at the corner of Boulevard East and 67th Street on Thursday, citing the possibility of litigation disputing the validity of the board’s ruling.
The high rise, called the Meridia Le Boulevard, caused significant controversy throughout last year and into January, when the board voted in favor the application filed by Capodagli Properties, which required the approval of several variances from the town’s zoning code. The board approved the variances on Jan. 24 by a 5-2 vote, despite Blane voting against it and referring to the proposal as “trying to cram an elephant into a hamster cage.”
The vote on the resolution was halted after the board received a letter from Jeffrey Kantowitz, an attorney representing residents of the neighboring Versailles building, late Thursday afternoon, which outlined one or more board member’s possible conflicts of interest in the case.
When the meeting approached the vote Le Meridia Boulevard, Blane ordered that the board go into executive session to discuss the possible litigation, and the public was forced to wait outside the municipal chambers.
According to Alvaro Alonso, the attorney representing Capodagli Properties, Kantowitz’s letter argues that due to the potential conflicts, the entire proceedings regarding the Le Meridia Boulevard application should be voided.
Upon returning from executive session, Blane, in a decision he said was meant to protect the board’s integrity, ordered that the board’s attorney, Jennifer Carillo-Perez, file a suit with the Superior Court of Hudson County that would request a declaratory judgment on the board’s next actions.
If a judge finds that Kantowitz’s claims of conflicts of interest are valid, the entire proceedings could be voided and the application would go back to square one.
The exact contents of Kantowitz’s letter are unclear, but events from the Jan. 24 meeting could give some indication.
Before the original vote took place, Perez revealed that she had discovered a possible conflict of interest due to a relationship between the West New York Parking Authority and Capodagli, although she did not go into detail as to its nature.
Blane asked the board members if any of them had any relationship to the parking authority. Board member Armando Alvarez stated that he currently serves as a commissioner on the Parking Authority, an unpaid position.
After consulting with Perez, Blane stated that the zoning board’s governing ordinance states that it is up to the board member to decide if there is a conflict of interest, and that the decision whether to vote lies solely with him or her.
Alvarez stated that he believed no conflict existed.
“I have been involved with this issue for some time, and I would like to cast my vote,” said Alvarez.
He voted in favor of Capodagli’s application.
Look for continuing coverage of this issue in next weekend’s edition of The West New York Reporter. – Dean DeChiaro