On October 2, 2017, the Honorable Bruce E. Tolbert, sitting as a Rockland County Supreme Court Justice, entered a decision and order awarding our clients, The Ray River Co., Inc. and Haverstraw Riverfront, Inc., $8,950,000 plus interest from March 27, 2008. That is a 56% increment. Jonathan M. Houghton tried the claim, assisted by Ashley Levi.
The Condemnor, Village of Haverstraw, made an advance payment of $1,190,000. At trial, it introduced an appraisal valuing the 9.7 acres of vacant land on the Hudson River at $2.1 million.
The property never should have been condemned. The property owners had entered into a contract of sale with a builder but because of the condemnation, the closing of title was frustrated. The parcel was included in the Haverstraw Downtown Redevelopment Program. The original idea was to condemn the land and then transfer title to Ginsburg Development Companies (“GDC”). This was done in another case this office handled of adjoining land. See Matter of Village of Haverstraw (AAA Electricians, Inc.), 33 Misc3d 1232(A) aff’d 114 AD3d 955 [2d Dept 2014] mot for lv den. 24 NY3d 906 .
Here, the Village specifically represented that if there was to be a condemnation of Ray River’s land, it would absolutely happen within three years after the “Determination and Findings” were adopted. When that did not occur, the property owner brought a writ of prohibition. In support, it attached the minutes of the public hearing and affidavits of trustees who attested that they would not have voted in favor of the resolution without the three year condition. But the court dismissed the petition. The Appellate Division affirmed 62 AD3d 1011 [2d Dept 2009]. In a related appeal, the same court held that the property owner could only challenge a “Determination and Findings” by a petition filed pursuant to EDPL § 207. 62 AD3d 1016 [2d Dept 2009] which makes no sense since there was no way one would know the Village would break its three year limitation until after the passage of three years.
But why did the Village insist on the condemnation? GDC never took title to the land. Although there is a land development agreement between GDC and the Village, GDC apparently is not interested in developing the Ray River parcel. In fact, according to the minutes of the Village of Haverstraw, as of 2017, nine years later, the land known as the Chair Factory has not only not been transferred but the Village Steering Committee is working with an engineering firm to come up with a general proposal to the public for its input as to how they would like the Chair Factory property utilized. (May 15, 2017). In other words, the Village doesn’t have a clue as to what to do with the land. And examination of other minutes indicated that GDC has stopped its building on land that it did take title to and that there are outstanding financial issues with the Village with respect to that land. (May 1, 2017).
Yet, the Village insisted on the condemnation of the Chair Factory land and delayed the trial for years. The Village will no doubt appeal. We will cross-appeal, but this case merits serious consideration as the incredible waste of public money. Had the Village not condemned, the land would have been privately developed into at least 100 units which would all be paying real estate taxes.