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State Supreme Court dismisses White Plains suit against Ian Behar for $150 million.

Judge says city did not give motive for Behar to interfere with Town Center suit; also scoffs that Article 78 action brought by Behar caused any damage to the city.

Judge Calls City suit against Behar "speculative."

Special to WPCNR

By John F. Bailey

CityLine: June 12, 2001 -- City Hall

The Mayor's Office announced Tuesday evening that the city's $150 million lawsuit against the individual Ian Behar has been dismissed by Supreme Court Judge Nicholas Colabella. In a decision released Tuesday, the magistrate agreed with Mr. Behar's contention that the city suit against him had no merit.

Behar is the New York City resident who brought an Article 78 suit against the City of White Plains when it approved the Tishman Speyer Town Center project last July. Within three days of Common Council approval of that project, Behar filed the lawsuit against the city for damages to his planned clothing and shoe store which was scheduled to open at 209 Martine Avenue. (This very building scheduled to be torn down as part of the Louis Cappelli City Center project, provided either Cappelli or the city obtain control of the building through outright purchase or eminent domain.) Judge Peter Leavitt dismissed Behar's original Article 78 suit in September, 2000, Upon dismissal of Behar's suit, the city sued him and his company I.W.L. Associates, Inc., for $150 million October 20, 2000.

In the legal dance that follows such action, Behar's attorneys Schapiro & Reich of Lindenhurst, NY filed a summary judgment action asking for a dismissal which Judge Colabella agreed with yesterday. Colabella, according to the decision saw no motive for Behar to interfere with the Town Center project. He finds no factual basis for the city to assume IWL, Behar's firm was created for the purpose of blocking the Town Center project. Colabella also writes that the brief duration of Behar's Article 78 action, in his opinion, did not cause the city to be damaged, or caused the Town Center to fail. Colabella calls the city allegation that the Loews Cineplex theater chain withdrew because of Behar's suit, "speculative."

George Gretsas, the Mayor's Executive Officer, told WPCNR "The decision is under review by our legal department." He would not speculate on the city's next move. However, Gretsas did say that the motion for dismissal was granted without the judge seeing any of the considerable trail of circumstantial evidence the city has which has lead the city to file the suit against Behar and his company in the first place. Gretsas said the city had hoped to get past the summary judgment stage so deposition of evidence could begin, but would not comment further.

Judge Colabella's complete decision:

"Motion is granted. The action is dismissed. The complaint fails to state a cause of action for tortious interference with prospective economic advantage or malicious prosecution. In addition, even assuming that IWL was created for the sole purpose of contesting the Town Center project, as alleged, there is no factual basis to find that filing an Article 78 proceeding to review a SEQRA determination caused the plaintiff to be damaged. There is no reasonable possibility that the Article 78 proceeding, which pended for less than two months and which defendants lacked standing to even bring, caused the termination of the project. Plaintiff's claim, that the cinema operator withdrew from the project due to delay from the litigation, as opposed to unrelated financial difficulties, is based on nothing more than speculation."

Meanwhile, Ian Behar's anti-defamation lawsuit against The Mayor for $15 million, and for councilpersons Rita Malmud ($10 million), Larry Delgado ($10 million), Benjamin Boykin ($10 million), William King ($10 million), and Pauline Oliva ($10 million) is still pending, and may be strengthened as a result of Judge Colabella's dismissal today. Robert Greer, was the lone councilman not sued by Mr. Behar.

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