HOW TO SERVE LEGAL PAPERS ON NYC SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY

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By: Akanksha A. Panicker

The  School Construction Authority’s (SCA) objective is to have healthy, appealing, and environmentally sustainable education for children around New York’s boroughs. The SCA has been pursuing its goal to improve and refurbish schools, emphasizing financial responsibility and simultaneously meeting the best practicable academic expectations of security, consistency, and competence.

The New York State School Construction Authority (SCA) was formed in December 1988  to create new public school buildings and oversee the planning, construction, and rehabilitation of state-owned capital projects, constructing most dating before 1949. The authority was established by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and State Legislature to replace the Board of Education in the awarding and supervision of construction contracts. After repeated complaints by civic groups and prosecutors, the independent agency was formed that school construction and repair programs were hobbled by shoddy work and overcharging.

The School Construction Authority manages the Department of Education’s Capital Program and has exclusive control for school construction, preparation, budgeting, and scoping, and capital upgrades to the current schools.  The School Construction Authority was created in 1988 as a New York State public-benefit corporation by the New York State Legislature, which removed control of capital projects from the city’s Board of Education to end corruption. The Authority is overseen by a three-member Board of Trustees appointed by the Mayor.

The SCA argues that the placement of sole responsibility for the Capital Plan with the SCA has rendered several key benefits, including improved management of the construction process and reduction of school construction costs due to simplified design standards. 

The SCA’s Legal Department is comprised of Legal, Real Estate Services, Labour Law Compliance, and the Corporate Secretary. The Corporate Secretary in the legal department is empowered to receive papers served according to New York City Process Service requirements.

[1.0] THE COMPONENTS OF THE SCA

Service of process is the procedure by which a party to a lawsuit gives an appropriate notice of initial legal action to another party (such as a defendant), court, or administrative body to exercise jurisdiction over that person to enable that person to respond to the proceeding before the court, body, or another tribunal. Notice is furnished by delivering a set of court documents (called ‘process’) to the person to be served.

Legal department: The SCA’s Department of Law offers all SCA representatives across divisions and departments counsel and legal services. The Department is responsible for informing the Board on all licenses and legal specifications for the SCA’s building policy and operations; preparing and reviewing SCA contracts, deals, and legal documents; license agreements, memoranda of understanding, and other legal documents reacting to the Board of Trustees’ Freedom of Information requests; lien resolution; and mediating public works litigation for the Community.

Real Estate Services Division: The SCA’s division that focuses on Real Estate Services is charged with identification, assessing, and acquiring or leasing(through negotiated purchase and eminent domain) all new development and rented locations to help in the Department of Education’s Capacity Program.  Additionally, the Division is responsible for the general assessment, state environmental quality review (SEQ), site zoning override processes, and negotiations for new and ongoing lease renewals. The landlord liaison facilitates contact among the SCA, the Division of School Facilities (DSF), and property owners on installation or occupation matters.

Labour Law Compliance Division: The SCA’ Labour Law Compliance Division seeks to ensure that construction firms comply with legal requirements to report and pay their workers the appropriate Prevailing Wages

[2.0] RESPONSES TO A FOIL REQUEST

Under the State of New York laws, copies of various records created by the SCA can be accessed. A Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to obtain records/documents from New York State or local government agencies. Records that are determined to be responsive and disclosable are, to the extent possible, made available to the requestor within twenty (20) business days after receipt of the request.

All requests to inspect and/or copy records of the SCA are directed to the Records Access Officer, whose responsibility is to ensure she is responsible for ensuring appropriate agency responses to public requests for access to records. Requests are accepted by mail at the main office in compliance with the incumbent specifications for Freedom of Information requests that New York City Process Service adheres to. Each request must be made in writing and reasonably describe the records sought. Whenever possible, the person requesting the records should supply as much descriptive information as possible, including dates, titles, authors, and recipients of the documents. The SCA makes its records available for inspection and/or copying during regular business hours at the location or locations within the SCA’s facilities designated by the records manager. Such records may not be removed from the office. Arrangements may be made for obtaining copies of such records.

Requests can also be submitted via email, delivered to the official email address. Regardless, a request for records must be in writing, detailing the type, subject matter, and date(s) of the records requested. Any records sought must be done in a particular manner, with the details of [A.] the title(s) of documents, [B.]the dates, [C.] the file designations and [D.] any other information that will enable the Records Access Officer to identify the record(s) that the individuals are requesting.

Under certain circumstances, the laws of the State of New York prohibit the SCA from disclosing records. Disclosure may constitute an impermissible invasion of privacy. Other exceptions cover public bidding matters, trade secrets, law enforcement matters, and the like. If a record may not be revealed, the SCA will issue a written denial of access, setting forth the reasons for that determination.

[2.1] APPEALING AN ADVERSE DECISION

Any person or entity denied access to any record might, within thirty (30) days of such denial can appeal the denial. However, this denial must be done by writing Vice President and General Counsel of the SCA, must be submitted by mail. A denial of access to records must be in writing, stating the reason for the denial and advising the individual as to their right to appeal to the agency’s head or governing body. This would also include the person designated to hear appeals by the agency’s head or governing body.

Appeals can be done within thirty (30) days of the denial. Upon receipt of the appeal, the Appeals Officer will independently review the withheld records and the reasons provided for withholding them and decide whether they were improperly withheld or must be released. The Appeals Officer has ten (10) business days to fully explain in writing the reasons for further denial of access or to provide access to the records. 

To identify the timeframe for adjudging an appeal, the point of receipt of the written appeal identifying [A.] the date of the request for records; [B.] the description of the records that were denied; and [C.]  name and the return address of the applicant must be considered. Upon review, the relevant authority (the Vice President and General Counsel) can either affirm, modify or reverse the denial.

The SCA also provides routine information to permit public inspection of records without charge. The exceptions to this general policy for when a fee may be charged includes instances for r reproduction, duplication, or copying of records or if the fee is otherwise prescribed by law. 

Records will be photocopied or electronically copied by the SCA where appropriate. The person requesting a copy will be charged a fee of twenty-five (25¢) cents per page for hard copies and fifty (50 ¢) per page.

If it is not practicable for the SCA to photocopy any such record, the record will be copied commercially, and the person requesting the copy will be charged a fee equal to the cost of such commercial reproduction. Additionally, it must be remembered that any fee charged about these services must be paid by the person making the request, by check or money order, in advance of any recorded delivery.

[3.1] SERVICE OF LEGAL DOCUMENTS DURING THE COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY

Due to efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and given the declarations by the Governor and the Mayor of states of emergency in New York State and New York City, the SCA is unable to accept service by personal delivery of legal documents by personal delivery in New York City Process Service. 

However, filing a notice of claim or any other processes can just as easily be served via electronic means at the designated email address. The documents here should be brought to the attention of the Corporate Secretary according to the CPLR,  which requires the summons to be delivered to the chief executive officer of such agency or to a person designated by such chief executive officer to receive service, New York City Process Service also allows for service via registered or certified mail. 

Filing for a lien would follow a similar method, with documents served electronically or via registered or certified mail.  It must be remembered here that according to the rules of New York City Process Service, personal service on a state officer sued solely in an official capacity or state agency, which shall be required to obtain personal jurisdiction over such an officer or agency and done by mailing the summons by certified mail, return receipt requested. Service by certified mail is incomplete if the agency’s principal office has not received the summons.  Service by certified mail shall also require the envelope to bear the legend ‘Urgent Legal Mail’ in capital letters on the very front. 

The SCA’s primary goal is to ensure that NYC public school children have the facilities necessary for the current needs of students. Many school buildings are architecturally noteworthy, and since 1988 construction has been in the hands of the New York City School Construction Authority. Consequently, New York City Process Servers’ service of the process ensures the SCA’s transparency and the availability of pertinent information upon request.

For more information on serving legal papers, contact New York City Process Service (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST.  If you found this article helpful, please consider donating.  Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us!  We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.

Sources

1. Current SCA trustees are Carmen Fariña (who also serves as a Chancellor of the city’s Department of Education), Curtis A. Harris, and Emily Youssouf.

2. These rules governing public access to certain records of the New York City School Construction Authority (the authority) are promulgated to implement the provisions of section 87(b) of Article 6 of the Public Officers Law (which article is known as the Freedom of Information Law).

N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. Tit. 21 § 9607.1

3. ‘Record’ means any information kept, held, filed, produced, or reproduced by, with, or for this agency, in any physical form whatsoever including, but not limited to, reports, statements, examinations, memoranda, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, papers, designs, drawings, maps, photos, letters, microfilms, computer tapes or disks, rules, regulations or codes.

4. Jessica  Reyes, who is also the Corporate Secretary

5. 30-30 Thomson Avenue, 4th floor
Long Island City, NY 11101.

6. foil@nycsca.org

7. Currently, William Estes, Esq. Appeals

8. 30-30 Thomson Avenue, 4th Floor
Long Island City, New York 11101.

The agency must send 9. Copies of all appeals and the determinations to the Committee on Open Government. Public Officers Law §89(4)(a). This requirement enables the Committee on Open Government to monitor compliance with the law and intercede when a denial of access may be improper. Furthermore, you may seek judicial review of a final agency denial using a proceeding initiated under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules.

10. The fees are provided for copies not exceeding 9 x 14 inches or the actual cost of reproducing such records if larger copies are required

11.serviceofprocess@nycsca.org

12. liens@nycsca.org

13. the term ‘principal office of the agency’ shall mean the location at which the office of the chief executive officer of the agency is generally located

14. the term state agency shall be deemed to refer to any agency, board, bureau, commission, division, tribunal, or other entity that constitutes the state for service purposes under subdivision one of this section.

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