Continental Commons owner files federal lawsuit

A developer who wants to build Continental Commons, a replica colonial village on Route 9 in Fishkill, sued critics in federal court last month for $18 million, claiming they employed illegal racketeering and corrupt practices to stop the project. 

Domenico Broccoli, who owns the 10.5-acre site, filed suit on Aug. 17, asserting that leaders and supporters of the nonprofit Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot violated the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, a law typically used to prosecute gang members, but also sometimes applicable to non-criminal proceedings.

The lawsuit targets 31 people — naming six and referring to 25 only as “Does” — plus two consulting firms. It alleges various offenses, including salting the property with bones and historic artifacts; digging phony graves; “making knowingly false statements” to government officials; misleading the public; or otherwise misbehaving to achieve the “ultimate goal of wresting ownership of the property.” 

Sometimes called Crossroads, the property lies on a piece of the Revolutionary War Fishkill Supply Depot, a vast military base that stretched from colonial Fishkill village down the Albany Post Road (now Route 9) to northern Philipstown, which was then part of Dutchess County. It sprawled eastward along the present Route 52 toward East Fishkill and west to Fishkill Landing and the Hudson River, now Beacon. 

The Van Wyck homestead, a Continental Army officers’ headquarters overseen by the Fishkill Historical Society, faces Broccoli’s site across Snook Road. 

Broccoli, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who owns four IHOP restaurants, wants to construct a hotel, restaurant, retail space and visitor center. The site currently contains a gas station with a car wash and convenience store, woods and a cemetery that the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot (FOFSD) believe contains graves of Revolutionary War dead. Broccoli disagrees with their assessment but has pledged to protect the burial ground.

A 2007 archaeological dig uncovered eight graves; in 2013 three more burials were discovered and 18th-century artifacts have also surfaced. In objecting to Continental Commons, FOFSD has warned that development would “destroy unique ruins, dishonor the memory of the heroes who served — and are buried — at the site, and permanently scar the historic landscape of Fishkill.”

Broccoli’s lawsuit contends that after failing to raise enough money to buy the property during a seven-month period he gave the organization in 2013, the nonprofit’s leaders and supporters used “a series of well-crafted lies aimed at devaluing” his land and “destroying” his business. According to the complaint, their “actions were not based in patriotism or an altruistic desire to preserve American history. Instead, their scheme is based in greed.” The lawsuit maintains the FOFSD intends to establish a for-profit “cultural heritage tour” business where visitors can join “mock archaeological digs and find manufactured artifacts.”

As the RICO defendants, the 61-page complaint names FOFSD President Lance Ashworth; Mara Farrell, one of its founders; and Bill Sandy, an archaeologist. 

In a non-RICO capacity, the lawsuit targets Douglas Mackey, accused by Broccoli of having prolonged on-site investigations while serving as a state historic preservation analyst and thus having “abused his role” as an expert; and Stephen Thomas, an architect and former Fishkill Planning Board member, who, the lawsuit alleges, sought to drag out the local review to increase Broccoli’s expenses. 

The lawsuit also disparages two reports about the site and includes the firms that produced them as defendants, along with one firm’s leader. One report was prepared in 2016 by archaeologist Richard Hunter of Hunter Research and funded by a $24,600 National Park Service grant; the other was by Greenhouse Consultants, a Georgia firm twice hired by Broccoli. He contends the reports intentionally mischaracterized archaeological work or the historical record to make it appear the site contains artifacts and burials or is otherwise related to the Fishkill Supply Depot. 

Asked whether, if Broccoli prevails, he could collect the $18 million, a Continental Commons representative, Greg Lane, said on Tuesday (Aug. 31) that the defendants “stood to gain tens of millions of dollars from their fraudulent scheme.”

As of Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 1), none of the defendants had filed a response with the federal court. FOFSD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January, Broccoli asked a state court to overturn the Fishkill Town Board’s denial of water and sewer system extensions for his project. In a news release at the time, the developer asserted that the town supervisor and board had “consistently, calculatingly and maliciously abused, and continue to abuse, government powers to derail the Continental Commons project.” That case is pending.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government

4 replies on “Developer Accuses Critics of Racketeering”

  1. Racketeering….nice. I’m sure this guy wishes the land he owned was in Beacon, despite what most people in Beacon want. They never turn down an opportunity to overbuild. As always, just like the former president, if the builder does not get what ‘they’ feel is their right to build, they will try to bankrupt any town in legal fees to get their way.

    1. As a spokesperson for the project, I would like to share some important information. Our plans for an 18th-century colonial village of restaurants, shops, inn, visitor center and living museum were thoroughly reviewed by many state and local agencies and received the necessary approvals. In fact, the New York State Supreme Court even ruled against the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot in a lawsuit they filed challenging these approvals.

      Originally, we hoped to work with the defendants to provide visitors with a dynamic, interactive historic learning experience. In fact, we even offered to donate 2 acres of the property and a small, unidentified burial area to the FOFSD in 2013. However, it was rebuffed by FOFSD President Lance Ashworth. He tried to strongarm the property owner, he told him that it wasn’t enough, and that his group wanted the entire 10-acre parcel. Our complaint includes statements captured by audio recording where Ashworth stated the defendants’ goal of acquiring the property.

  2. This lawsuit is yet another attempt to discredit the historic preservation efforts of those people who are genuinely concerned about saving one of the most historic properties in the U.S. Lies, deceit and doctored videos of those who wish to preserve the site have become the focus of Broccoli’s efforts to destroy one of the remaining pieces of Gen. Washington’s supply depot, where most of his Continental Army passed through and mustered.

    I have been a Revolutionary War reenactor for 46 years. I have never seen a place so better-deserving of preservation as a valuable resource for education and investigation of our history than the Fishkill Supply Depot. There are more than 80 documented records of the names of those buried there and many of their descendants are aware of this. Maybe that begs the question to Broccoli and his comrades in harm: How would they respond if someone wanted to bulldoze over a cemetery that your great-great-great-grandfather is buried in and drop an IHOP on it?

    My fifth great-grandfather was stationed at the Crossroads guarding the burial grounds. I have his 1832 pension file to prove it. Let’s keep America beautiful and not toss all our history into the garbage. That is where this frivolous lawsuit belongs.

    1. The New York State Historic Preservation Office has stated that there was no archaeological evidence that soldiers from the American Revolutionary War were buried on the property.

      It is well documented that the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot misled the public when they falsely stated that Continental Commons was the site of the largest American Revolutionary War Cemetery. In fact, we have statements captured by audio recording where the FOFSD chief researcher acknowledged that soldiers were buried at Rombout Cemetery, amongst other places.

      As you know, the Fishkill Supply Depot spanned more than 10 square miles, and while there is documentation placing soldiers in Fishkill, there is nothing stating that they are buried on the Continental Commons property.

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