POUGHKEEPSIE – A homeowners association (HOA) has filed a notice of claim (NOC) against the City of Poughkeepsie seeking damages as a result of alleged defamation. Hudson Pointe Poughkeepsie HOA is seeking damages stemming from alleged comments made by Councilmember Natasha Cherry at an October 7 meeting of the common council.
The HOA, through its attorney Anthony DeFazio, claims in January 2, 2020 court papers that at the October 7 meeting, Cherry made a statement that “An African-American family tried to buy property in a predominately white affluent neighborhood and was basically ran out of the neighborhood.”
A review of the meeting webcast shows that Cherry did make that statement while addressing what she called “pockets of racism that are being unaddressed” in the City of Poughkeepsie.
The HOA also alleges that Cherry made subsequent statements that she was speaking about the Hudson Pointe HOA Inc. and that the family she was talking about were the Rossers. Dr. Eric Rosser is the recently named superintendent of the Poughkeepsie City School District who, along with his wife, were relocating from Buffalo to Poughkeepsie as part of his employment contract. A review of Cherry’s comments in their entirety does not have any reference to the Rosser family. Dr. Rosser did not return repeated requests seeking comment.
The HOA complaint further says “She also made a falsely stated that the Rosser’s family’s closing was intentionally and improperly canceled on three occasions by the Hudson Pointe Poughkeepsie HOA Inc.” No statement to that effect can be found in a review of the meeting transcript or webcast.
The notice of claim seeks to have the city financially compensate the HOA for “loss of property values, stigma, and damage to reputation to it’s members.” The notice was signed by Al Tenaglia, on behalf of the HOA, according to the document.
A records search for a person by that name at Hudson Pointe was unsuccessful but did indicate an individual by the name of Alfred Tenaglia, with a similarly spelled name residing in Hudson Pointe.
A message seeking comment was left at the listed phone number but not returned. The HOA’s attorney, DeFazio was asked to comment and responded via email saying “Not at this time – I will keep you posted.”
The president of the HOA is local attorney Lou Viglotti. A message seeking comment was left on his voicemail. No response was received.
Councilmember Natasha Cherry declined to comment on the issue on the advice of the city’s attorney, Paul Ackerman. Ackerman refused to comment saying “It’s the position of the city not to comment on specific litigation in which the city is a party.” According to Ackerman, the next step in the process is a 50-H hearing. The hearing is comparable to a deposition in a civil suit but not as thorough. The city’s attorney is allowed to ask questions of the party bringing the suit. After the inquisition, the city has 30 days to make a settlement offer. The plaintiff has to accept or reject the offer before being allowed to file an actual lawsuit.
Hudson Pointe is a complex of 60 townhomes on Pine Street, between Route 9 and the Hudson River, in the vicinity of Vassar Brothers Hospital. There are at least three units listed on a real estate website with prices ranging between $395,000 and $649,900.