Court Rules Against Iona College in Tax Lot Merger Lawsuit Against City of New Rochelle

Written By: Robert Cox

WHITE PLAINS, NY — Judge Susan Cacase, in a ruling issued yesterday, firmly rejected an Article 78 petition filed last February by Iona College against the City of New Rochelle in New York State Supreme Court.

Iona College filed the lawsuit after the New Rochelle City Council amended a local ordinance to require private schools to obtain a Special Permit to merge tax lots. The permit would likely put certain conditions on what the college could do with the merged property.

Ordinance 91, approved by the New Rochelle City Council in 2001, was amended in November 2016.

Under the previous version of the law, a permit was required on “property that had not been previously used for any purposes related to the university, college or private school.”

In Early November of 2016, Iona College announced plans to expand Hagan Hall, home of its Business School, by merging tax lots in the area along Beechmont Drive.

The City Council unanimously approved a change to the language a week later to read “expansion shall include the merger of lots adjacent to the existing campus.” 

Iona College believes the amendment targeted them.

Today, Iona vowed to continue the fight.

In a statement issued to Talk of the Sound, a spokesperson for the College stated “our legal team is disappointed, but is prepared to move forward with next steps to protect Iona’s property rights – just as any homeowner would do.”

City Manager Charles B. Strome issued a statement to Talk of the Sound.

“The City is pleased that the Court completely upheld our position in this matter,” said Strome. “We look forward this putting this matter behind us.”

In addition to rejecting the College’s property claims, Cacase curtly dismissed allegations of ethical violations by New Rochelle Corporation Counsel Kathleen Gill.

Gill left her position as Corporation Counsel in 2013 and returned in 2015, after a two-year stint working for Iona College.

Strome said at the time that Iona had threatened to disparage Gill if the two parties were unable to come to terms.

The lawsuit made various allegations about Gill using her insider knowledge of Iona’s development plans to interfere with those plans.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, Iona College issued a statement directed at Gill, “holding City officials accountable for acting ethically and lawfully is key to a healthy democracy.”

Cacase was having none of it.

“Such relief is denied in its entirety without further comment from this Court,” wrote Cacase.

Asked to comment on Cacase’s rejection of Iona’s claims about Gill, Strome said “I believe the decision speaks for itself.”