Judge rules against Damascus Bakery, again

SECAUCUS – A federal judge has denied a motion that was filed last year by the owners of a Brooklyn-based bakery that had once sought to move to Secaucus, according to town officials.
The ruling means the court will not reconsider a U.S. District Court decision last summer to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit that had been filed against the town of Secaucus by the bakery’s owners.
U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini last week rejected a motion of reconsideration that had been filed by David and Edward Mafoud, brothers and co-owners of the Brooklyn-based Damascus Bakery. The conflict between the Mafouds and Secaucus dates back more than three years, when the brothers decided to relocate their growing bakery to an old warehouse at 10 Enterprise Ave. in Secaucus.
In March 2007, Damascus Bakery signed a lease with property owner Hartz Mountain Industries and applied for a zoning permit from the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC), a state agency that has zoning jurisdiction over 88 percent of the land in Secaucus. The NJMC approved the bakery’s zoning request and Damascus applied for a local building permit.
When residents learned of the bakery’s plans, however, they were angry they had not been notified of Damascus’ zoning application and expressed concerns about increased traffic from the bakery, the volatility of the baking ingredients, and other environmental issues.
Residents and town officials were particularly concerned about the warehouse’s close proximity to several homes and Clarendon School. The town filed a lawsuit to prevent the bakery from moving to the Enterprise Ave. address.
The bakery’s owners filed a lawsuit of their own, alleging they were subjected to “political maneuvering, stonewalling, and corruption,” which held up the approval of their building permit and forced them to find another home for their business. They further alleged that they lost more than $5 million because they were unable to move to the larger space and expand the business as planned.
The lawsuit specifically named as defendants the Town of Secaucus; the Secaucus Municipal Utilities Authority; former Mayor Dennis Elwell; Construction Code Official and State Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, an Elwell ally; Fire Code Official Vincent Massaro; and former Town Attorney Frank Leanza.
In August 2010 Judge Martini dismissed the Mafouds’ lawsuit stating they had not produced enough evidence to support their claims.
“Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Damascus,” Martini wrote in his decision last year, “the court finds that [the] defendants’ behavior does not ‘shock the conscience’ or lack a rational basis, such that it rises to the level of a constitutional violation.”
Anthony Laura, the attorney representing the brothers, filed a motion of reconsideration, asking Judge Martini to re-examine his decision. The judge last week denied that request.
The bakery’s only recourse now is an appeal with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, Pa. – E. Assata Wright

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