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January 14, 2014

Judge rules in favor of village in parking lawsuit

A state Supreme Court judge has ruled in favor of the village of Cooperstown in the paid parking lawsuit. 

Kevin Dowd, the presiding justice for the Sixth Judicial District, issued his decision in the Savor Gracie Inc. (Savor New York), Brenda Berstler vs. the Village of Cooperstown Board of Trustees and Mayor of the Village of Cooperstown on Dec. 12, 2013 and released it late Monday.

The two page decision found four of five contentions by the petitioner to be “without merit” and dismissed the final complaint as a political issue rather than a legal one.

Berstler, who owned the Savor New York store, brought the lawsuit in July after becoming a vocal critic of the 2013 paid parking law. Berstler closed her Main Street store later that summer and re-branded her business as Savor USA, focusing on online sales and a presence in retail spaces in Herkimer, Albany and other tourist locations.

As of press time, Berstler has not responded to a phone message asking for her comment on the judge’s decision.

Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz said that he was pleased with the verdict.

“I am certainly happy that the village prevailed in every way,” he said. “It is not something I want to gloat about. I am happy it is over. I am happy it is resolved in our favor.”

Katz said that the decision was consistent with the assessment of the case given to the village by its attorney, Martin Tillapaugh.

“We had been talking about it sometimes publicly when Martin would give us his analysis of the process, and it kind of played out exactly the way he said it would,” Katz said.

The lawsuit made five contentions: Local Law # 3 of 2013 should be null and void because the public notice was inadequate and referenced only a part of the village, on Pioneer Street, where the regulations would be in effect; the use of the terms “may establish” and “will be” in the law were vague terms rather than formal declarations; the board did not set fees in the law, but left the cost of paid parking undetermined; in terms of mailing parking permits, the law is discriminatory and therefore invalid based on the 2000 case NYS Public Employees Federations, et. all vs. City of Albany; finally, that the parking law has caused a “dire” economic impact on local businesses.

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