A state-of-the-art animal welfare centre at New York John F. Kennedy International (JFK) airport will close if it loses a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ).
The ARK, a $65 million in-transit facility that offers animal care for all animals traveling as cargo or excess baggage, is the victim of US government “corruption” and “internal squabbling and turf wars” that have killed the project.
That is the claim of developer and owner John J. Cuticelli Jr. of Racebrook Capital who holds a 27-year lease with the PANYNJ for the facility.
“I just want the Port Authority to honour the lease,” says Cuticelli (pictured). “They keep saying they have signed the lease but do nothing to abide by it. I do not think this is incompetence. I think it is deliberate.”
The 310-page lease to establish and operate the facility took three years to draft and involved 11 law firms.
“My phone is ringing off the hook with people from all over the world who cannot believe what is happening” he says. “If we close The Ark no-one will ever buy it, no-one will ever undertake such an endeavour with the US government again.”
The dispute hinges on why the Port Authority has continued to use a third-party animal location away from the airport after undertaking to direct all live animals to the privately-owned facility. The Port Authority has steered most animal traffic to another facility it owns in Newburgh, New York that is leased to the US Department of Agriculture.
One example of lost business suffered by The Ark in the lawsuit saw 30 horses arrive at JFK over two days in October, 2017 and none were quarantined at The Ark. The result is that the facility is barely generating ten per cent of its projected income.
The multi-million dollar lawsuit describes as “wilful” this breach of the lease and has led Cuticelli to claim political interference in the Port Authority’s actions.
He says: “I simply want them to follow the lease and perform the 310 pages of the lease. I performed. I raised $65 million. I am about to lose everything.
“I am in the middle of something.”
In his lawsuit, Cuticelli claims: “ARK has repeatedly tried in vain to resolve its dispute with the Port Authority to no avail. It is simply impossible for The ARK to cut through the never-ending red-tape created by the competing government agencies.”
The case could take between three and five years to come to a resolution.
Photo credit for Cuticelli: Anthony Collins.