From the Queens Chronicle:
At Tuesday’s hearing, Shaw presented the SCA’s case, saying the building houses a highly functioning high school with about 430 students, and that the SCA is “considering acquiring it if we cannot reach an admirable agreement with the owner.” He later added, “Eminent domain is in consideration.”
After his presentation, he spent about 40 minutes fielding questions, many of which were aggressive in tone.
“Do you realize that there’s other space available across the street from where you are right now?” asked the board chairman, Vinicio Donato.
“That I’m not aware of,” Shaw replied.
“OK, then we’ll give you some information: across the street from your building there’s 10,000 square feet of land,” Donato said.
Shaw countered that the SCA has already invested nearly $10 million worth of capital funds in renovating the building.
The community board questioned the costs of the renovation, which led to queries about an ongoing lawsuit between Fouly and the SCA.
Fouly said he sued the SCA because he repaired the building when the school moved in at personal expense and was never reimbursed. The SCA countersued him, claiming the work he did was unsatisfactory. When the board pressed him for details about the suits, Shaw said:“I really wouldn’t want to discuss our dispute with the landlord.”
An angry board member replied: “Well, this is a public forum, you’re a public agency, we’re going to make a decision supporting you or not supporting you; don’t you think we’re entitled to the facts surrounding this litigation?”
Shaw responded he did not want to get into specifics regarding the SCA claim against the landlord or his claim against the agency.
But Fouly said he thinks his lawsuit sparked the SCA’s attempt to acquire the building. “They are exercising eminent domain as a harassment against my lawsuit,” he said.
The community board seemed to agree.
“I think the way we see it is that you are holding a sword over the landlord in order to get the building to make him settle the case using eminent domain,and I think that’s what we are all afraid of — that you are trying to use here,” Donato said.
When another board member said, “I have a philosophical problem with eminent domain,” loud applause burst out. “I don’t think you should use blackmail of eminent domain to get your way,” the board member continued. “I think that’s just rough-housing-type activity and I think it should be beneath the city of New York.”