Avitat HPN files restraining order

 - May 1, 2009, 6:46 AM

Although Westchester County Airport in New York agreed to grant a new
lease on Hangar E-1 to JPMorgan Chase, existing leaseholder Avitat Westchester
has filed a lawsuit to try to halt the lease. The process that awarded the lease to JPMorgan Chase “was flawed, violated longstanding county practices and was a retaliatory action against Avitat for complaining about illegal practices at the airport,” according to Avitat CEO Michael Dolphin. On April 9, Avitat sought a temporary restraining order asking the court to halt the plan to grant the lease to JPMorganChase so that a trial can be held.

According to Dolphin, loss of the lease would cut annual revenues for Avitat Westchester by more than $10 million. The court agreed to delay the process by 50 days, and Dolphin is hoping that the delay will allow his lawsuit to go forward and prevent the airport from granting the lease to JPMorgan Chase. A longer delay could also prevent Avitat from having to evict its tenants while JPMorgan Chase takes over the lease, then having to try to re-rent the hangar space if the lawsuit is decided in Avitat’s favor.

JPMorgan Chase plans to remodel the hangar to accommodate two Gulfstream G650s it has on order, including building a vegetable garden on the roof.

Avitat Westchester has been operating at Westchester County Airport since 1993. While the county typically offers incumbents the opportunity to renew existing leases, Dolphin said, “Avitat believes it has been singled out for this exclusion from past and current county treatment of lessees at the airport because the county executive’s office is retaliating against Avitat for speaking out on unlawful and improper county actions at the airport.”