YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. – All five members of the Yorktown Planning Board have sued the Yorktown Democratic Committee and its co-chair, Elliott Krowe, saying the political organization made libelous statements against the volunteers in a letter to the editor that was published in Yorktown News.
Krowe’s Feb. 14 letter questioned whether the Planning Board members, who are all registered in the Republican Party, had inappropriately fast-tracked an application for a development on Underhill Avenue, which they approved in December 2017.
This new two-story building is going up on properties formerly owned by former Town Supervisor Michael Grace and the family of former state Sen. Terrence Murphy, both Republicans, who sold their properties to Unicorn Contracting.
In asking several open-ended questions, the lawsuit states, Krowe implied untoward behavior on the part of the Planning Board.
“Why did the Planning Board, entirely made up of registered Republicans, approve the plans for the development two weeks before Mr. Grace was to leave office?” Krowe wrote.
“Why was the project rammed through without the usual oversight and involvement of other town advisory boards?” he added.
After several more examples of perceived inconsistencies regarding the application, Krowe concluded, “I wonder if the same Planning Board process would have occurred if Mr. Murphy was not a state senator or Mr. Grace the town supervisor at the time.”
The five Planning Board members—Richard Fon (chair), John Kincart, John Savoca, William LaScala and Robert Garrigan—responded the following week with a letter to the editor of their own.
“The Yorktown Planning Board operates in this manner and conducts itself with the highest standards of professionalism and ethics, and did so when it reviewed and approved this development proposal,” the members said, before calling Krowe’s accusations “unsubstantiated, false and, most disturbingly, uninformed.”
The board said it was not acting as “agents” of Grace or Murphy when it signed off on the application: “We unequivocally say that the Planning Board process is applied evenly, equally, and as prescribed by law without regard to the status or office of owners or applicants of land proposed for development in the town of Yorktown.”
The board also said Krowe incorrectly said its members were all appointed by Grace, who served from 2012 to 2017. In fact, the members were appointed by three administrations over an 11-year period.
The Planning Board’s lawsuit was filed March 11 in State Supreme Court in White Plains. Though Krowe did not specifically name Fon, Kincart, Savoca, LaScala or Garrigan in his letter, the members, who are seeking punitive damages, say their reputations have been “tarnished.”
In the lawsuit, they say Krowe not only questioned their integrity but accused them of violating state laws. As a result, they said, they have sustained “harm, injuries and damages to their person, property and business, all of which were caused” by Krowe’s letter.
Krowe, who said he has been served with the lawsuit, called the allegations “baseless and absurd.”
“Nothing was libelous,” Krowe told Yorktown News. “They are all public figures subject to comment and criticism. If it goes forward, it will be interesting to see what comes out when everyone is under oath.”