Two Pelham Manor homeowners who live on the Bronx frontier want to control access to Pelham Bay Park.
Nicholas J. Loria and Robert L. Rossman sued the city of New York and the East Coast Greenway Alliance Inc. for allegedly refusing to maintain a park entrance, in a lawsuit filed Sept. 2 in Westchester Supreme Court.
Small slices of their properties are in Westchester County, according to property records, but most of their land is in the Bronx.
Their houses are among 35 homes in a 200-foot strip from the Hutchinson River Parkway to the Long Island Sound that is in the Bronx but cut off from city services by the 2,772-acre park.
Historically, the sidelined strip conferred the advantages of the mixed political and geographic boundaries. Homeowners paid significantly lower Bronx property taxes, for instance, and the city paid the Pelham schools to educate the children.
The borderland was informally known as Politicians’ Row, according to a 1997 New York Times story, because judges, a district attorney, a police commissioner and political candidates could establish city residency while living in a suburb.
But living on the fringe also has its downside, according to the lawsuit. Loria and Rossman live at the end of Park Lane, on either side of an entrance to the East Coast Greenway, a series of 3,000 miles of biking and hiking paths from Maine to Florida.
Trail maps and a greenway biking sign mark the trail’s point of access between Loria’s and Rossman’s properties.
Bikers and hikers flock to the site, according to the complaint. Beer cans, food wrappers and plastic are scattered about. A bollard blocks cars from entering the park, so motorists purportedly use the private properties to turn around, hitting a fence in one instance and often damaging the driveways.
But New York City disclaims responsibility for maintaining the property, according to Loria and Rossman.
The Bronx Bureau of Topography, for instance, allegedly claims that 200 feet of Park Lane between the park and the Westchester County line are part of a private road, for which the city has no responsibility to maintain or repair.
Parks and Recreation maps depict the greenway access as separate from Pelham Bay Park. And the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the men claim, has never repaired or maintained Park Lane or the access point.
The homeowners say they have spent “significant sums of money” to remove trees, patch the road and clean the area.
They are asking the court to declare them as the rightful owner of the no man’s land, arguing that the Bronx boundary was taken illegally for public use. They want a court order allowing them to close the access point, and they are asking for $500,000 to compensate them for property damages.
The Greenway Alliance “neither owns, constructs, nor maintains trail sections, counter to the plaintiffs’ misleading statements,” the organization’s executive director, Dennis Markatos-Soriano, said in an email. “We advocate with local, regional and state partners … to complete a safe route for people to bike and walk from Main to Florida.”
The partners include the New York City Department of Transportation, the Parks and Recreation Department and the Economic Development Corp., according to the Alliance’s website, as well as Westchester County parks and New York State Department of Transportation.
Loria and Rossman are represented by White Plains attorney Kristen K. Wilson.