Posted On: February 27, 2006

New Impact Statement Requirements Go Into Effect This Week

As we noted in our November 28, 2005 post, the New York State Legislature passed a bill which was signed into law by the Governor requiring that, beginning February 26, 2006, municipalities must post all Environmental Impact Statements, required under SEQRA, on the world wide web. The address of all postings must be included in all notices regarding an Environmental Impact Statement.

As part of the new requirements the Environmental Impact Statement must be posted for a period of time after all permits mentioned in the Impact Statement have been issued.

The purpose of the law is to provide greater public access to these documents and to facilitate the ability of the public to comment on the project proposed in the Environmental Impact Statement.

Posted On: February 15, 2006

Court of Appeals Invalidates New York City Equal Benefits Law

A sharply divided New York Court of Appeals upheld the position of New York City Mayor Bloomberg who refused to enforce the City’s Equal Benefits Law. On February 14, 2006, in the case the Matter of Council of the City of New York v. Bloomberg ( the Court held that the Equal Benefits Law was pre-empted by State and Federal Law. The Equal Benefits Law required that contracts awarded by the City in excess of $100,000 be made only to contractors who provided equal benefits to the domestic partners and spouses of employees.

In the first instance the Court held that that the issue of validity of the local law could be raised by the Mayor in defense of an Article 78 proceeding by the City Council seeking to compel him to enforce the law. The Court held that the Mayor acted properly in refusing to enforce a law he felt was invalid. It then determined that the law was at odds with, among other statutes, section 103 of the General Municipal Law which requires the award of contracts to the lowest responsible bidder. The majority stated that, as written, the law could violate the intention of the competitive bidding statute. For example, contract specifications could be drafted to favor contractors who provided specific benefits. Such requirements, the Court held, do not foster the purpose of the statute, which is to save money for the municipality.

In a dissent by Judge Rosenblatt, joined in by two other judges, he argued that the actions of the Mayor violated the doctrine of separation of powers. Judge Rosenblatt stated that the executive is required to carry out the law until a court declares it invalid and should not unilaterally refuse to carry out a legislative act. He argued that a defense in an Article 78 proceeding is not the proper vehicle for challenging a local law.

Posted On: February 7, 2006

New Notice Requirements Under General Municipal Law

Effective as of July 1, 2006 the New York State General Municipal Law requires that notice be provided to adjacent municipalities in the case of many applications for special permits, use variances, subdivisions and site plans. The new section 239nn of the General Municipal Law is based upon a provision in the Westchester County Charter which has been in place for a number of years.

The new law applies to any city, town or village, except for a city with a population of one million of more. The law requires that in the case of applications for use variances, special permits, subdivisions and site plans, within 500 feet of a municipal boundary, a notice of hearing must be sent to any adjacent municipality within 500 feet of the property which is the subject of the application. The law further specifically provides that the municipality may appear and be heard at the hearing.

This new provision is a potential land mine for municipalities that fail to follow the notice requirements.