The owner of a Harlem gas station is suing New York City, saying that the city is trying to buy back land that it sold him years ago and calling the fight a "David and Goliath situation."
Carmie Elmore (pictured below), who owns the gas station at 110th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Manhattan (pictured above), told NBC New York that the city is flip-flopping on a deal that it struck with him when he first acquired the gas station.
Elmore began renting the gas station from the city in 1981. And in 1995, he bought it under an urban renewal plan, though there was a stipulation in the contract that gave the city the right to buy it back. Elmore said, however, that this clause expired in 2008.
Elmore is claiming that the city is pushing to get the station back now that gentrification has improved the neighborhood.
"They didn't want it when it was in such terrible disarray over there," Elmore told the New York Post, "and now that things are good, they want to take it and do something different with it. I understand what they want, but I know it's not right, and I know it's not fair, and that's why we're fighting it."
To boot, Elmore has 20 employees working for him, and he wants to protect their jobs.
New York City's Economic Development Corporation told NBC New York in a statement that it "strongly disputes" Elmore's take on the ordeal. It is currently seeking proposals for development of mixed-use retail and residential space where Elmore's gas station stands now.
"It's like a David and Goliath situation," Elmore said, "but you've got to [fight] if you want to stay here, and I want to stay.
"I call this my little corner of the world," he continued," so I plan to be here until I can't do it anymore."
Officials said that the city "will be responding in court."
In another recent property-related case pitting the city against an individual: A graffiti artist said that the NYPD infringed on his right to free speech when officers painted over his mural depicting the word "murderers" and coffins marked with the names of several public agencies, including the NYPD.
Most Ridiculous HOA Disputes
Carmie Elmore, Harlem Gas Station Owner, Fights NYC's Plan to Buy It for Development
Location: Stapleton, Colo.
What the homeowner did: Sarah Cohen's 3-year-old daughter, Emerson, drew on the sidewalk using chalk.
The HOA's response: Chalk art potentially offends, disturbs or interferes with "the peaceful enjoyment" of the community and is not allowed. "The association is trying to go down a path of 'do no harm,' " an attorney representing the HOA said.
Outcome: The issue will be brought to a vote at a future HOA meeting. In the meantime, Cohen plans on continuing to let her daughter draw on the sidewalks. "It's summertime, and God forbid my daughter is drawing flowers, her name and hearts," said Cohen.
What the homeowner did: Nick and Jeni Dreis took home a 6-month-old red kangaroo as a vocational training animal for their 16-year-old daughter, Kala, who has Down’s Syndrome.
The HOA's response: The family should “immediately remove the kangaroo from the property, as it is not a household pet nor can it be maintained for any business purposes.”
Outcome: In the wake of widespread public support for the Dreises, the HOA reversed its position. “The letter should never have been sent,” said Jeff Crilley of the Estates of Legend Ranch Homeowners Association. “[HOA officials] were unaware that the kangaroo was being used for therapy purposes.”
What the homeowner did: Planted perennial flowers in her yard. Kimberly Bois claimed she had the plants in her yard before the condo board even existed and had permission from the developer to plant them.
The HOA's response: Sent the homeowner 13 certified letters demanding she remove the plants, starting with a cease-and-desist order and escalating to thousands of dollars in fines and penalties. "It's not about do you like these flowers or don't you," said the condo association’s attorney, Sandy Roberts. "It's a question of was it authorized and is it permanent."
Outcome: Condo association filed a lawsuit against Bois to pay $4,500 in back fines and $8,000 in attorney’s fees.
What the homeowner did: Barbara Cadranel put a mezuzah on the doorframe of her apartment.
The HOA's response: Threatened to impose a $50-a-day fine until the religious door fixture is removed.
Outcome: The condo association agreed that Cadranel could hang her mezuzah and rescinded all penalties and fees against her. It also said it will allow residents to place mezuzahs and other religious symbols on doorframes without requiring advance approval.
What the homeowner did: Tiffany Veloudis built a playhouse for her 3-year-old son, Cooper, who has cerebral palsy, on the instructions of the toddler’s therapist. It cost the family $5,000 to construct.
The HOA's response: Demanded that the playhouse be removed and ordered the Veloudis family to pay $50 for every day the playhouse remains in their yard.
Outcome: After the story garnered national attention, the association decided the playhouse could stay until a solution could be worked out. State representative Richard Henderson has submitted a bill to enable homeowners to build small structures for therapy purposes with doctor approval, regardless of HOA rules.
What the homeowner did: Jodi and Timothy Burr put up a front yard banner supporting their son, Corey, a lance corporal in the Marines who was serving in Afghanistan at the time.
The HOA's response: Told the family it was breaking the HOA's rule prohibiting all signs from public display.
Outcome: The HOA sued the Burrs when they refused to remove the sign. The Burrs argue that other homeowners have signs in their yards, and that the enforcement of the rule is “selective.” They also are trying to meet with the HOA to discuss possible revisions to the rule.