The Real Deal New York

Scarano suit calls DOB statute unconstitutional

April 24, 2009 04:44PM
By Adam Pincus

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alternate textRobert Scarano designed 264 Cumberland

Controversial architect Robert Scarano is fighting back against the city Department of Buildings’ attempt to block him from filing building plans, a move the designer said could ruin his business, court papers said.

Scarano asked a Manhattan State Supreme Court judge to rule as unconstitutional a 2007 city construction statute that can be used to bar an architect from filing for permits, as well as halt the administrative proceeding against him that is trying to do just that, according to a lawsuit he filed against the buildings department April 17.

The buildings department and the city Department of Investigation announced in June 2008 that they were investigating Scarano for allegedly knowingly or negligently filing false or misleading documents, among other charges. If found guilty, the prolific Brooklyn developer could be barred from filing plans in the city, where he says he conducts 95 percent of his business.

Scarano has completed scores of projects in New York City. He recently completed a condominium in Fort Greene at 264 Cumberland and has a condominium project under construction at 26-23 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens.

The administrative case is under review by a judge of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, an independent city agency that acts as a tribunal for city departments and commissions.

On Monday, the judge hearing Scarano‘s lawsuit in State Supreme Court rejected his request for a temporary restraining order, city Law Department attorney Gabriel Taussig said.

Scarano‘s lawsuit called the particular statute unconstitutional because it lacked due process; it was poorly drafted with a “meager” standard; and could be applied arbitrarily.

The standard “subjects licensed professionals to the potential loss of their rights based on arbitrary and politically- or otherwise improperly-motivated prosecutions by a government agency,” the suit says. In 2006, after coming under pressure by the DOB, he surrendered his right to self-certify.

Taussig denied the bias allegations, and said he was confident the court would find the law constitutional.

Through a spokesperson, Scarano declined to comment. In the court papers, Scarano said if the administrative judge ruled against him, he would be out of business, and a number of construction projects would be put in limbo.

The loss of the right to file building plans “would sound the death knell of Scarano’s professional practice,” the filing says.

The statute, part of the city’s Construction Code, allows the buildings department to bar architects from filing plans if they are ruled to have knowingly or negligently submitted false documents. 

Three architects have had there filing privileged revoked since the 2007 law went into effect, a spokesperson for the DOB said. 

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