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Appeals Court Rules Greed-Inspired Street Names Will Stick at Mt. Manresa

By Nicholas Rizzi | July 20, 2017 4:14pm
 An appeals court upheld the decision to keep street names inspired by greed for the controversial Mt. Manresa development.
An appeals court upheld the decision to keep street names inspired by greed for the controversial Mt. Manresa development.
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Mount Builders v. James Oddo

STATEN ISLAND — Looks like you'll be able to buy a house on street named for greed after all.

An appeals court ruled Wednesday to keep Borough President James Oddo's creative street names for the controversial Mount Manresa condo project after developers tried to fight the decision.

"I will not take a victory lap because doing so won’t bring back the trees so haphazardly destroyed by the developers, or return the site to its former glory," Oddo said in a statement.

"I wish we didn't have to get to this point, and we would not have if the previous owners of the site had done what other responsible large land owners, like the Children’s Aid Society, did, which was work with local government to preserve their site for future generations of Staten Islanders."

In 2015, Savo Brothers developers — under the name Mount Builders LLC — sued Oddo after he took to the dictionary for revenge over the project at the former Jesuit retreat house.

For the new streets, Oddo chose Cupidity Drive, which means inordinate desire for wealth; Fourberie Lane, defined as trickery and deception; and Avidity Place, derived from avidita, meaning greed.

Judge Philip Minardo ruled last year that Oddo — whose office is responsible for assigning new street numbers and names in private developments — was within his rights to keep the names and the appeals court upheld the decision.

"I'm disappointed in the result," said Richard Leland, lawyer for the developer. "I thought that the court did not rule on the principle issue, which was the fact that the borough president has abused his discretion."

The Savo Brothers bought the 103-year-old Jesuit retreat house for $15 million in 2014 to tear down the site and build 203 townhouses in its place.

Residents and elected officials protested the sale and argued in court that the 15-acre site should be landmarked, but a judge denied the decision and work began.

► READ MORE: Mt. Manresa Developers Paid $65K to Former Boro President Molinaro's Firm

The work was temporarily halted in 2015 after two former asbestos inspectors were arrested when they lied about the presence of the potentially deadly material in buildings. They pleaded guilty to the charges in May.

Oddo initially tried to delay issuing street numbers to the project until an investigation into the construction finished but a judge eventually forced him to issue them.

The developers offered a list of potential street names that included "Timber Lane," which Oddo wrote on Facebook was a direct snub to neighbors outraged about the 400-year-old trees chopped down on the site.

The city also argued that the other names pitched by the Savo Brothers were too similar to others that already exist in the borough and would cause confusion for emergency responders.

Oddo started one last effort to halt the project last year by forcing the new streets to be part of the official city map and go through the city's lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) which could cripple their plans.

The Savo Brothers plan to apply for an exemption to a city rule that says a home can't be occupied unless it faces a mapped street, but Oddo called on the city to refuse the exemption, which the city often grants.

"In the end, I understand that the street names at issue in this case — Avidita Place, Fourberie Lane, and Cupidity Drive — are not that important to Staten Islanders; instead the real importance is that they are officially made part of the city map," Oddo said in a statement Thursday.

"That’s why the true victory will come when our work results in a change in the GCL 36 process so that it works as intended," Oddo said, referring to the mapped street requirement. "This, and only this, will protect residents and communities by ensuring agencies do the necessary analysis prior to development."