A Monroe County Supreme Court justice has denied a request for an injunction to bar the city of Auburn from moving forward on plans to demolish a downtown building.
In a written decision released this afternoon, Judge Joseph D. Valentino stated that Joseph A. Camardo Jr. has not shown he "will suffer irreparable harm" if the city continues with demolition plans at the current rate.
In the decision, Valentino states that the city has not awarded a bid on the demolition project for the building at 1-7 State St. in Auburn, also known as the Kalet's building. Valentino also stated that Camardo's issues regarding the environmental review process are "not yet ripe for judicial review."
A restraining order would have halted progress on demolition at the Kalet's building, and it claimed the city was not following state requirements for the project's environmental review. Camardo and an attorney with the city appeared Tuesday in a Rochester court for a hearing on Camardo's request for an injunction.
Read tomorrow's edition of The Citizen for a more detailed report.
Previously reported in The Citizen:
ROCHESTER — A Monroe County judge is expected to decide today whether to bar the city of Auburn from moving forward on the demolition of a downtown building until city officials complete the state-required environmental review process.
On Tuesday, local attorney Joseph Camardo Jr. and city attorney Andrew Fusco argued in a Rochester courtroom for and against a restraining order requested last week by Camardo over a proposal to demolish the city-owned building at 1-7 State St. to make room for a theater.
Camardo, whose law office is adjacent to the abandoned building that formerly housed the Kalet’s department store, told Judge Joseph D. Valentino that the city is fast-tracking the process and not following state environmental regulations required for construction projects
Camardo is suing the city over the Kalet’s building theater proposal and filed last week for a court order to halt the project to allow time for what he says is a proper environmental review.
Fusco argued that Camardo’s complaints about the environmental review process are premature and said the city will meet the proper requirements before the building comes down. Fusco also said the city will attempt to have Camardo’s main lawsuit dismissed.
During the hearing, which lasted approximately 45 minutes, Camardo brought up concerns about the project and its effects on the surrounding buildings, noise and traffic. He said studies on the property warn of contaminants like asbestos, lead and mercury.
Camardo told the judge that the city is not providing him with any reports, documents or updates in response to his concerns.
“We’ve been frozen out of this process,” said Camardo, who was representing himself in place of Carl DePalma, who previously represented him in this case.
Demolishing the building would be the first step in a construction project to build a performing arts venue for Cayuga Community College. If the project moves forward as planned, the theater will also be utilized during the summer months for an annual musical theater festival.
Camardo said he believes the city planned to award the demolition contract and complete the environmental review this week and only changed the time after the lawsuit. He alleged that the city is pushing the project forward without properly dealing with potential environmental concerns or involving the public in the process.
“We can’t know the concerns until we see the documentation,” Camardo said. “The whole thing is being rushed through. This should be a deliberate process.”
Under the State Environmental Quality Review process, the lead agency assesses a project based on criteria set by the state to determine whether or not it will have a negative effect on the environment. If the agency decides it could impact the environment, a more-detailed environmental review is required.
The Auburn city council is the lead agency for the Kalet’s project. Fusco told Valentino that the city does not plan on awarding any demolition contract until after the initial assessment is complete.
Fusco said the city planned on opening the bids Tuesday and he expects the city council to conduct the environmental assessment in public at its Feb. 17 meeting.
In the meantime, the city is putting other involved agencies on notice and is accepting feedback, he said. Fusco said that correspondences from Camardo about his concerns will be provided to the city council before the environmental assessment.
He also said there will be an opportunity for the public to voice opinions during the city council’s weekly public-to-be-heard session.
“He gets his say,” Fusco said of Camardo. “The fact that he thinks he’s being frozen out, it’s premature.”
Camardo filed for the temporary restraining order last week, just days after filing a wide-ranging lawsuit over the aforementioned environmental concerns, disputes over property lines and a right-of-way, use of proprietary information and allocation of public funds.
The case was referred after Cayuga County judges Thomas Leone and Mark Fandrich both recused themselves.
Fusco said the city will also seek for Valentino to dismiss the lawsuit altogether, but the paperwork was not filed in time to argue the motions at Tuesday’s hearing.
Demolishing the Kalet’s building is the first step in a complicated project that will involve the city, Cayuga County, Cayuga Community College, the State University of New York, organizers of a local musical theater festival and multiple non-profit foundations if completed as planned.
The city agreed to pay up to $800,000 to tear the building down and transfer the property to the county, at which point construction on the theater will begin. The local Stardust and Emerson foundations have pledged to reimburse half the demolition costs.
Half of the $4.8 million in construction costs will come out of the already approved SUNY budget. The other half will come from organizers and investors with the musical theater festival.