‘Grinch’ Developer Dumped Rotting Garbage, Garden Advocates Allege in $5M Lawsuit
The Children’s Magical Garden last week filed a lawsuit against the owner-developer of the neighboring parcel, accusing him of bullying and harassment. Specifically with regard to the recent dumping of trash into the green space.
The Horizon Group – whose principal, David Marom, acquired the vacant lot from Serge Hoyda in 2013 – has been hell-bent on redeveloping the Garden site into a seven-story luxury building. Only problem is, advocates claimed ownership of his parcel (Lot 19) through adverse possession, and scored an appellate court victory last year that strengthens the argument.
This allegedly hasn’t sat well with Marom, and garden faithful accuse him of ongoing bullying tactics and intimidation, with the sole purpose of making the Garden unusable for community programming, recruiting members, and fulfilling its “philanthropic mission.” His actions ultimately forced the Children’s Magical Garden to file another lawsuit.
The legal action, filed in New York Supreme Court last Wednesday, cites years of “encroachments” by the “vengeful real estate developer,” referring to him as a “grinch.” Most serious being the so-called attack four months ago, in which the accused allegedly broke into the lots and “used power tools to destroy and damage many of the Garden’s treasured plantings, including the empress, mulberry, and maple trees as well as perennial flowers planted on Lots 16 and 18.”
Since 1985, the Children’s Magical Garden functioned on three vacant lots near the corner of Stanton and Norfolk Streets. Two of the three parcels were owned by the city (via HPD), while the third remained private. In May 2013, longtime owner Serge Hoyda acted on plans to construct a six-story building on the land at 157 Norfolk Street (Lot 19), and erected a fence that effectively bisected the greenspace. Two months later, HPD balked under community pressure and bequeathed its parcels (Lots 16 and 18) to the Garden. Hoyda sold his property to the Horizon Group a short time later.
The lawsuit also alleges that, following the April 2019 raid, Marom’s cronies discarded dozens of containers filled with rotting garbage, which were weighed down with water to stymie removal efforts. As a result, the garden apparently became infested with mosquitos, rendering the space unusable for much of the summer.
The Garden seeks punitive damages in excess of $5 million.
“We hope this [lawsuit] sends a message to anyone who would leave toxic garbage and harm plants and trees in a children’s garden,” Garden leader Kate Temple-West told us in an email.