Property owners on North Avenue in New Rochelle are trying to stop a proposed apartment project by using a tactic more commonly used by municipalities to advance new projects.
The private property owners are demanding that the court grant them exclusive use of a strip of land behind their buildings and stop the city from transferring city-owned land to a private developer.
They are invoking adverse possession, a kind of condemnation action, like the eminent domain process that cities use to seize private property for the sake of a public benefit. The idea of adverse possession is that land that is not used by the owner, while another party openly, continuously and notoriously uses it for many years, can be deemed abandoned.
That’s what 305 North Avenue Inc., Readsboro Equities LLC and North Garden Associates are arguing in a lawsuit filed against the city of New Rochelle on March 26 in Westchester Supreme Court.
The land in dispute is behind their buildings on North Avenue and adjacent to the city’s Garden Street Parking lot. The site is next to the Metro-North railroad tracks, three blocks from the train station, around the corner from a ramp to Interstate 95, and at the center of the city’s ambitious plans to redevelop downtown New Rochelle.
RXR Realty and Georgica Green Ventures LLC have proposed building a 20-story, 219-unit apartment building on the city’s Garden Street parking lot.
The businesses use three vacant parcels behind their buildings as a driveway and parking lot. They acknowledge that the city owns one parcel, but they are challenging the city’s easement rights to two parcels.
The city paved and maintained its land, the complaint states, but for at least 50 years it has done nothing to maintain or control the other land.
The city also installed a steel barrier around the municipal parking lot, blocking access to the disputed parcels.
By installing the barrier and failing to maintain the property, the landowners argue, the city has abandoned its property rights.
The city also has no right to sell the parking lot to a developer, according to the complaint. When the city acquired the land from Westchester County in 1966, it came with a deed restriction that required it to be used “solely and exclusively for parking and municipal purposes in perpetuity.”
The developer would eliminate about 200 parking spaces, the complaint states, and would use the right-of-way behind the North Street buildings to service 219 rental units.
The land owners are asking the court to grant them exclusive use and unimpeded access to their parcels, declare that the city has no easement rights to their land, declare that the city’s actions amount to an unconstitutional taking of property and order the city not to transfer the parking lot to the developer.
Kathleen Gill, the city’s corporation counsel, said the city does not comment on pending litigation.
The North Street buildings are occupied by law offices, real estate companies, Platzner International Group property management and Chili Dog. Attorney Richard Pogostin is a member of Readsboro Equities, according to the complaint; attorney Joseph Pogostin is CEO of 305 North Avenue Inc., according to state records; and attorney Marc D. Pogostin filed the complaint.