Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 28, 2013

Fed. Dist. Court in New York Dismisses Civil Rights Claims After Owner Alleges Neighbors and Planning Board Conspired Against Her

Plaintiff Farah Amid alleged that the Village of Old Brookville, New York and its residents and planning board deprived her of her civil rights in accordance with 42 U.S.C §1983 and that there was a conspiracy to deny her equal protection of the laws in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1985. Amid, a self-described Iranian-American and non-practicing Islamic woman, moved into Old Brookville with her husband in 1991. Following their divorce in 1999, Amid was able to maintain the home but was approached by an overzealous neighbor (who happened to be a real estate agent) to sell her home. When the neighbor would not take no for an answer, Amid alleged the neighbor and his wife (the Marxs’) began an aggressive campaign to drive her out of the neighborhood including depositing bags of dog feces on her property and even placing Amid in apprehension when it would seem that Mr. Marx would attempt to run her down on the street as she was walking by revving his engine. While dealing with this harassment, Amid was involved in a physical and verbal altercation with her neighbor Mr. Foster who called her “trash” and suggested she return to the “ghetto where trash belongs.” Amid was able to obtain a “stay away” order following this incident

Despite the unpleasant nature of relations with the neighbors, Amid’s allegation rest in the heart of her attempts to landscape and renovate her property. She alleges that the Planning Board’s refusal to allow her to remove a tree on her property caused the tree to fall in inclement weather, resulting in substantial damage which Amid alleged led to the growth of black mold rendering her house inhabitable. She also alleged that her attempts to build a cellar and a cabana and install a new outdoor lighting system were met by her neighbors with such vitriol including instances of vandalism and spray painting of racial epithets. All these actions harken to Amid’s central allegations that the residents of Old Brookville and the Planning Board have conspired to force her to pay excessive application fees and levied requirements on her property that other similarly situated properties are not subject to. Additionally, Amid said that the Village had placed a stop-sign directly in the middle of her driveway entrance and even sued her seeking to recoup costs alleged to be associated with the role her landscaping had in connection with flooding on a Village road. Amid claimed that in 2009, after years of fighting and millions of dollars spent trying to live her life and beautify her property, she was forced to put her house up for sale after the “financial war” waged against her had left her unable to maintain the financial burden of her home. Her neighbor, Chase, offered to swap his $3 million home for her home which was listed at $11.5 million. After she refused, she alleged that Chase warned her not to come back or his friend, the Village police chief, would make her life very difficult. Amid then filed this action alleging that her civil rights had been violated and that there was a conspiracy to deprive her of her civil rights. The defendants, the Village of Old Brookville, members of the Planning Board in both their personal and official capacities and neighbors, filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim which is the premise of this decision.

The District Court dismissed the civil rights claims because they were not brought within the governing three year statute of limitations.  However noted that with respect to the §1983 claim, Amid had not provided any evidence that she was treated differently than other similarly situated homeowners. The Court said that Amid’s complaint alleges only that it is expensive, time consuming and sometimes infuriating to deal with neighbors and the building and permit process but not that any process she had claimed actually violated the Constitution.

Amid v. Village of Old Brookville, et al, 2013 WL 527772 (EDNY 2/7/2013)


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