A Nassau County judge imposed a $131 million judgment against a city in Long Island for continually stalling a development project since 1989, new court papers show.
“The events giving rise to this case took place in 1989, the year that the Berlin wall fell,” Supreme Court Justice Jack Libert said in his ruling from Monday.
“The wall lasted for 28 years. Litigation related to this matter has lasted for 31 years so far,” Libert said.
Prolific developer Sinclair Haberman — who owns between 20 and 30 buildings and manages roughly 700 apartments — has been fighting in court for decades over the halted construction of four residential condo towers totaling 432 units in the City of Long Beach, according to the ruling.
Haberman’s late father initiated the 350 Shore Road project asking Long Beach for a zoning variance in the 1980s.
The city granted the variance and the first tower was built by 1987. But, the last three towers were never constructed as the project was delayed by changes in the city zoning laws and other reasons.
The revocation of permits previously issued by Long Beach was at the center of Haberman’s 2004 case in which the massive judgment was issued in his favor Monday.
The judge factored in estimates of the profits the buildings would have made, the lost market value from the construction delays, the cost of property taxes and interests when determining the enormous damages owed to Haberman.
The judgment is one of the largest in Nassau County’s history.
Haberman already won $23 million in a separate case and a separate trial will be held to determine how much of that award should be deducted from Monday’s judgment.
Haberman’s lawyer Christopher McGrath told said, “The City of Long Beach tried for 31 years to destroy Haberman’s right to develop his own property in conformance by breaching three written contracts, two of which were court orders.”
“The City then defaulted on Haberman’s lawsuit, knowing they had no defense to breaching these contracts and then decided not to offer a single dollar to this man for 15 years of litigation,” McGrath said. “Why?-because no elected official wanted to settle the case for fear that they would lose their next election.”
McGrath said the huge bill now has to be footed by the taxpayers.
And the massive figure will continue to grow as interest builds and legal fees mount while the city appeals the verdict, McGrath said.
“The City will likely delay some more by appealing this verdict and that will result in more legal fees and more than 1 million dollars a month in interest being added on to this verdict until the appeal is decided,” McGrath explained.
Another lawyer for Haberman, Stephen Limmer, told The Post, “The city has really been terrible and abusive to my client and the decision was right on.”
Conversely, Long Beach City Deputy Corporation Counsel Richard Berrios said in a statement: “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, and after discussion with outside counsel and City officials, we intend on appealing the Court’s decision, because we believe it should be reversed.
“This is a very old matter that far predates the involvement of the current members of the Council, City leadership, and almost all of the other parties that have been involved over the three decades of litigation,” City Council President John Bendo said in a statement. “It is another challenge from the past that we inherited and now must deal with.”
“We will be examining all available options to safeguard the financial interests of our residents to the greatest degree possible,” Bendo added.