County and Chestnut Ridge File Lawsuits Against Clarkstown

Rockland County and Village of Chestnut Ridge take legal actions against Clarkstown for closure of Samuel Road.


Legal officials representing both Rockland County and the Village of Chestnut Ridge say they took legal action against the Town of Clarkstown because it and its town board illegally closed Samuel Road.  In June, the town blocked Samuel Road to prevent speeding and heavy traffic on Newport Drive.  County and village attorneys said this action was illegal.

The state Supreme Court will consider the proceedings either together or separately on Friday, Oct. 12 and the town’s response to the legal actions is due several days earlier.

County Attorney Jeff Fortunato said the county filed its papers, an Article 78, against the closure in State Supreme Court on Friday, Sept. 14. That same day, Chestnut Ridge brought a hybrid Article 78/Declaratory Judgment action against the Town of Clarkstown and town board of Clarkstown.

“We believe it was fundamentally illegal and violated a public trust,” Fortunato stated. “In this case, it (the closure) centered on the concerns of a small number of people.”

Fortunato said the county’s lawsuit includes four plaintiffs: the legislature, county executive, District 15 Legislator Patrick Moroney on behalf of his constituents and Charles “Skip” Vezzetti, the county highway superintendent and chairman of the county drainage agency. The lawsuit seeks annulment of the town's two resolutions and claims the action violates state highway law and potentially could impact public safety. 

Fortunato said the only legal grounds for closing a road is when the public general is not using it.  A municipality’s responsibility is to hold streets and roads for the general public and it has no authority to block a roadway to benefit a few members of the community. He said if a road is of any use to anybody, it cannot be closed.

Clarkstown officials originally said they blocked Samuel Road access to Newport Drive because of speeding vehicles, heavy traffic and dangerous driving. They could not be reached for comment on the lawsuits. 

“Clarkstown closed the road because they claimed there was too much traffic,” Chestnut Ridge Village Attorney Doris Ulman said. “You can’t do it.”

Ulman listed two main procedural problems with the closing. 

“We believe that the closing of the road has environmental impacts that they did not review,” she said. 

She said the Clarkstown Town Board did not conduct an environmental review, which is required by state law. She said the impact on other roads that might get the diverted traffic was not analyzed.

Additionally, Ulman said the action ignored the potential of the nearby Pascack Brook to overflow and how snow removal would be hampered because trucks would have to back out of streets in hazardous conditions. She said emergency services are greatly impacted by the barrier if they need access to Newport Drive because they waste valuable time stopping and unlocking and locking the barrier. 

The second problem, Ulman noted, was Clarkstown should have dealt with the issue with a local law not a resolution because a local law would require a public hearing. 

Despite the public outcry in Chestnut Ridge against the closing and a meeting of village and town officials in August, their efforts have not been successful. She said they asked for the breakaway barrier to be removed until information could be reviewed but Clarkstown refused.

“They said no, they would not do it,” she said. “We had no recourse.”

Clarkstown's police department and traffic consultant are scheduled to present pre and post road closure reports at the October town board workshop.

Nicholas September 21, 2012 at 04:31 PM
It takes an amazing amount of arrogance to describe the re-routing of 2,000 cars (daily) to your neighbor's streets as an "inconvenience". The simple fact is that before closing Samuel Road the town should have had a clear understanding of the impact to the neighborhood. They did not and still don't and without a comprehensive traffic study they never will. No one has ever argued that Newport drive should not be made safer, but It also takes an amazing amount of arrogance to demand that your street be made safer at the expense of and without ANY consideration of your neighbor's safety. 2,000 cars do not just evaporate.
Don September 21, 2012 at 06:31 PM
I'm sorry that your failure to understand that this has become an inconvenience to residents has somehow translated to "arrogance" on my part. What aren't you understanding from the articles? A driver emptied the water from and moved the temporary barricade because they were now slightly inconvenienced. Someone threw a box on nails onto Newport near the barricade because they were upset by the inconvenience. A Journal News article stated that residents were angry because it would now take longer to get to Middletown Road and Route 59 (hint: "inconvenience"). Look, I'm sorry that everyone is in a rush to get somewhere, and that they would sacrifice our safety over an extra minute at the most. That being said, I would love to know how many people signed the petition opposing the closure because inconvenience was their concern, as I can bet that it was a decent number. I'd also like to know how many signed it because they truly cared vs. doing so because of social pressure? But I guess the petition should have true statements in the petition to begin with, right (i.e., no lies about emergency routes)?
Maryann September 21, 2012 at 06:53 PM
If Legislator Moroney is suing on behalf of his constituents, which ones? The ones whose phone calls he doesn't answer? The ones whose emails he chooses to ignore? Why doesn't he at least have the decency to admit that he has never spoken to the residents of Newport Drive, despite their attempts to contact him? He is a disgrace to the office he holds. The grounds for this lawsuit are all a pack of lies. A gate is going to make an environmental impact? How? The snowplows can't fit? The gate is at the town line, and the plows wouldn't go past it. As for emergency responders, NANUET DOESN'T RESPOND TO EMERGENCIES IN CHESTNUT RIDGE.
Walt September 21, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Again, how about some statistics on how many summonses CPD handed out? How many speeding tickets, passing school buses tickets, reckless driving tickets were given out in the area you refer to as being unsafe?
Kim Tran October 09, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Here's an update on this road barrier. Clarkstown Police said that the breakaway barrier installed on Samuel Road "had its desired effect ... The volume is down.” http://nanuet.patch.com/articles/controversial-barrier-reduces-traffic-flow


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