Judge tosses Cortland landlord's lawsuit against city

CORTLAND, N.Y. – A state supreme court judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a city landlord who argued that a neighboring property owner's expansion of a parking lot was illegal.

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In a decision released this week, State Supreme Court Judge Philip Rumsey denied a complaint filed by Gerald Ruggiero, a landlord who owns an apartment building at 2 James Street.

In May of 2014, the city of Cortland planning commission approved a project allowing Christopher Calabro, owner of Cortland Apts., LLC, to improve drainage at an apartment building on 89 Tompkins Street by raising a portion of the roof on the building and expanding an adjacent parking lot.

Ruggiero asked the city's zoning board of appeals to have the site plan approval thrown out, a request they denied.

He then filed a notice of petition in court, arguing that the parking lot was expanded in violation of city zoning regulations regarding maximum parking lot coverage.

"Paving of the backyard is a concern in the City of Cortland because it affects the water supply, potential flooding of nearby properties, and potential problems caused by excessive vehicular traffic," Ruggiero, who chose not to be represented by an attorney, wrote in court documents.

Judge Rumsey wrote in his decision that Ruggiero failed to demonstrate how Calabro's project would harm his property.

"Petitioner's allegation about potential flooding is entirely speculative because no facts are alleged to demonstrate that there has been flooding in the area or that expansion of a parking lot...will contribute, in any manner, to flooding of nearby properties," Rumsey wrote in his decision.

The ruling also agreed with Calabro's claims that Ruggiero quoted reference material without attribution, which the judge said amounted to plagiarism.

Rumsey said Ruggiero's status as a self-represented litigant "is no excuse for such extensive plagiarism, and he is advised that any further instances will invite appropriate sanctions."

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