Staten Island Borough President wins street name dispute

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo imposed negative street names for new streets laid out in a development. In 2014, Mount Builders, a land developer, purchased land in Staten Island on which it planned to build 200 new houses on three newly created streets. The property that Mount Builders acquired was known as Mount Manresa, which was the location of the first Jesuit retreat house in the United States as well as park land graced with many 400-year-old rare oak trees. The condominium development project sparked opposition from many in the Staten Island community including James Oddo, the Borough President.

In 2014, Mount Builders proposed a house number site plan, survey and list of nine suggested street names. Mount Builders offered a list of street names that included: Timber Lane, Pearl View Lane, Silver Bridge Drive, Turtle Drive, Lazy Bird Drive, Amber Heights Drive, Lamb Run, Rabbit Ridge Road and Willow Reach Lane. On November 9, 2015, nearly a year later, when no response to its request and no progress to the development had been made, Mount Builders sought by a court order to compel the Topographical Bureau, controlled by Borough President Oddo, to issue house numbers and assign street names.

Several weeks later, on November 24, 2015, in compliance with the court order, Oddo assigned the street names as Cupidity Drive, Avidity Place and Fourberie Lane, meaning greed, desire and deception, respectively. Mount Builders was dissatisfied and sued to compel Oddo to issue new street names from the list it had originally provided. Mount Builders argued that street name assignments should be solely ministerial and not discretionary and that Oddo had abused his discretion in assigning the contentious street names which were “derogatory in nature.” Cupidity, avidity and fourberie are all words with negative connotations.

On July 19, 2017, the Supreme Court Justices Leventhal, Barros, Connolly and Braithwaite-Nelson upheld Justice Minardo’s denial of Mount Builder’s motion and ruled that Borough President Oddo had performed his duty within his discretion as a function of local government when he assigned house numbers and issued the street names. Justice Minardo denied Mount Builders’ petition to reverse Borough President Oddo’s selections and compel approval of street names from Mount Builders’ list of preferred alternatives. The Justices ruled that the street names would remain as assigned even if the street names were unorthodox and reflected the acrimonious dispute that occurred on the controversial property.

Mount Builders, LLC v. Oddo, 58 N.Y.S.3d 594 (Richmond Cty.Sup.Ct. 2017) (Attorneys: Richard G. Leland, Phillip A. Spinella, Vanessa I. Garcia, for Builders; Zachary W. Carter, Devin Slack, Jane L. Gordon, for City).

By: Avra Kutcher (Avra is a student at New York Law School, Class of 2019)

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