Court Upholds Decision Of Town Which Determined Motel Constituted A Public Nuisance


4 June, 2024


Firm NewsRecent Decisions


In a recent action before the Nassau County Supreme Court, Berkman Henoch successfully represented the Town of Hempstead in upholding its resolution which directed the closure of a local motel on the grounds it constituted a public nuisance.

In an Article 78 proceeding, Petitioner, L&S Realty Co., LLC, the owner of Capri Motor Inn (“Petitioner” or “Capri”) located in West Hempstead, New York, sought to annul a resolution of the Town Board of the Town of Hempstead (“Town”) that directed the closure of the Capri for one (1) year as it constituted a “public nuisance” under Chapter 91 of the Town Code.  At the public hearing, the Town Board heard testimony from the Nassau County Police Department’s Fifth Precinct’s Command Officer “regarding the extensive history of criminal activity at the “Capri.”

The Capri argued that the Town lacked authority to hold and conduct a public hearing and that several alleged procedural infirmities rendered the public hearing jurisdictionally defective.  In opposition, Berkman Henoch, on behalf of the Town argued, among other things, that municipalities in the State have authority to seek to summarily abate public nuisances and to the extent there were any alleged procedural infirmities, the Capri was not prejudiced as it had an opportunity to he heard in opposition at two (2) separate public hearings at which its counsel appeared.

In dismissing the Petition and denying the Carpi’s arguments, the Supreme Court, Nassau County (Cozzens, J.S.C.), explained that the “United States Supreme Court has long recognized that States . . . counties, cities, towns and villages have clear authority to protect their citizens . . . and this includes criminal activity . . . The intent of Chapter 91 is clear.  The Town’s public nuisance law was enacted to provide the Town with a way to ensure buildings within the Town do not become places where crime . . . is permitted, promoted and/or condoned.”

The Court, in further ruling in favor of the Town explained that the “determination of the Town Board under Chapter 91 that the Motel constituted a public nuisance was a proper exercise of its Police power.  The determination was a rational and reasonable one supported by Substantial Evidence and is clearly not irrational, arbitrary or capricious or against the weight of the evidence.”

In a related proceeding, Berkman Henoch, on behalf of the Town, filed and served a Complaint commencing an action in the Supreme Court, Nassau County, seeking an order declaring the Capri a public nuisance.  The relevant provision of Chapter 91 of the Town Code under which the Town seeks relief in this separate action, allows for the closure and shuttering of the Capri for three (3) years.  The specific provision of the Town Code, which authorizes the Town Board to conduct a hearing and summarily abate a public nuisance only permits a one (1) year closure.

In advancing similar arguments, the Capri moved to dismiss the Town’s Complaint.  In rejecting the Capri’s arguments, the Court (Cozzens, J.S.C.) concluded that “Section 91-5 of the Town Code grants the Town [the ability] to commence an action to enjoin further occupancy of the building.  The commencement of this action by the Town provides the Defendant with due process and an opportunity to be heard.  Thus due process is satisfied under the law . . . Accordingly, the Motion of the defendant seeking dismissal of the complaint is denied.”

The Town of Hempstead was represented by Joseph E. Macy, Esq. and Nicholas S. Tuffarelli, Esq. – members of Berkman Henoch’s Litigation Department.

Links To: Copies of the Court’s Short Form Orders dismissing the petition and denying the motion to dismiss the Complaint.