The state Court of Appeals on Thursday unanimously affirmed a state Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling that the Village of King Point’s plan to raze 5.4 acres of Kings Point Park for a department of public works building violates state law and ordered the removal of a village salt shed on the property.
The seven-judge panel said in its ruling, written by judge Eugene F. Pigott, that the western corner of the park was “parkland” and that any plan to use the parcel for “non-park” use had to be “authorized by the state Legislature.”
Kings Point officials have said that a ruling against the village could cost village taxpayers $3.5 million.
Village of Great Neck resident Daniel Capruso, who filed a lawsuit in 2009 to block Kings Point’s plan to build a public works building on parkland, praised the appellate court’s ruling.
“As users of the park, we are grateful to the courts for stopping the illegal destruction of this beautiful forest,” Capruso said.
The village had argued during a May 1 hearing before the appellate court that any lawsuit to block “non-park” use should have been filed six years after the village began to use the parcel for “a pistol range for local police and for storage of highway materials and supplies” in 1946.
But in its ruling, the appellate court said Capruso’s lawsuit is “not barred by the statute of limitations.”
The court said the salt shed, which had been built in 1946, is a “continuing wrong” and should be removed immediately.
Stephen Limmer, the Village of Kings Point’s attorney said the ruling was “unfortunate but that’s the law and we have to abide by it.”
“There’s no further appeal,” he said. “That’s it.”
Limmer said the Kings Point board will decide if they want to place the proposed department of public works building in an alternative location at a future board of trustees meeting.
Great Neck Park District Commissioner Ruth Tamarin said at a meeting of the board of commissioners on Thursday that the ruling was “good news for park lovers and bad news for the Village of Kings Point.”
The ruling ends a near-five year legal battle between Capruso and the Village of Kings Point.
Village of Kings Point trustees had sought to construct a new 12,000 square foot department of public works building on the parcel in 2008 on land that had not been used for park purposes for decades.
Those plans were halted after Capruso, along with fellow Great Neck residents Elizabeth Allen and Alan Berkower, filed a lawsuit in 2009 against the proposed project.
The three residents, although not residents of the Village of Kings Point, neighbor Kings Point Park.
“There is so little old growth forest left in this county,” Capruso said in a 2011 interview in explaining the lawsuit.
The village lost that case in state Supreme Court in 2011, with the court prohibiting the building of the facility and ordering the removal of existing village structures at the site. The court also ordered the village to pay plaintiff attorney fees.
The village filed an appeal on that ruling in June of last year.
Village of Kings Point Mayor Michael Kalnick said after the state Supreme Court’s ruling in 2011 that construction of the public works building on the parkland would save village taxpayers about $3.5 million.
“If a new department of public works is not built there, we would have to bond it and pay for it over time,” he said.
Kalnick said the village trustees intended to build a new department of public works headquarters and sell the land that was home to the existing department of public works.