By Najib Aminy
A New York State Supreme Court judge has ordered a change of venue in a lawsuit between the State University of New York and the Stony Brook Environmental Conservancy regarding the location of a planned hotel on the campus of Stony Brook University. The change in venue also lifts a temporary injunction that would legally allow construction to begin.
However, George Locker, the attorney representing the Conservancy, said he is in deliberation with the Attorney General’s office to see if SUNY would agree to a voluntary injunction that would maintain the current status quo. If SUNY were to deny the proposed injunction, Locker said he would pursue a similar restraining order against starting any sort of construction.
State Supreme Court Judge Marylin Diamond ruled to move the case from Manhattan to Suffolk County at the request of New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office. The argument was over the state’s jurisdiction and the location of the land in question, which is across from the Administration parking lot on campus. Essentially, a Manhattan court was determining the outcome of land use in Suffolk County.
Locker said he had filed the case in Lower Manhattan, rather than Riverhead, for multiple reasons. One reason had dealt with the convenience of Lower Manhattan—that’s where Locker works. The other reason touched on Locker’s concern over the university’s possible influence on local politics and the local judges.
“There is political influence everywhere and if you think otherwise you are fooling yourself,” said Locker, regarding his initial concern over the lawsuit and being located in Suffolk County. However, Locker spoke with a tone of confidence when readdressing Stony Brook’s current political atmosphere.
“If I were SBU, I wouldn’t count on political influence,” Locker said.
“Stanley has done so much to discredit himself and SUNY that he is no longer credible or believable.”
The Attorney General’s office request for the suit to be thrown out however was dismissed. The case will now be heard in the 10th Judicial Court of Suffolk County.
This is one of three lawsuits that involve SBU students suing the administration. In August, a State Supreme Court Justice ruled that the Stony Brook President Samuel Stanley’s closure of Southampton was unlawful. Earlier in the year, a group of Research Assistants, Teaching Assistants and graduate students filed a lawsuit claiming their first amendment rights had been violated when police escorted them out of President Stanley’s inauguration route. That suit is still pending.
As for the future of the hotel lawsuit, Locker says his case is very much related to the Southampton lawsuit, citing what he calls Stanley’s repetition of abusing the legal process.
The lawsuit is still pending and now under the jurisdiction of the Suffolk County State Supreme Court in Riverhead. The Office of Media Relations had offered no comment when this article was originally posted. They have since offered comment.
“The University is in receipt of the court documents and will follow an appropriate and responsible course in moving forward,” said Lauren Sheprow, director of Media Relations at SBU, in an email.