Cemetery wins bridge easement over Parkway

City wanted to demolish bridges connecting both sides of Cypress Hills Cemetery. In the 1930s, under Robert Moses’ urging, the City obtained land from Cypress Hills Cemetery through eminent domain to build the Interboro Parkway, now renamed the Jackie Robinson Parkway. The City also built two bridges to allow passage between the cemetery parcels that had been divided by the Parkway.

repair the bridges, but noted that it was not legally responsible for any repairs or rehabilitation. After evaluating the structures, however, the City recommended that the bridges be demolished. The City notified Cypress Hills that it would be inappropriate to spend public funds to construct new bridges for private use.

Cypress Hills sued the City, claiming that it had a permanent easement in the bridges and the City had an obligation to repair or replace them.

The lower court disagreed and dismissed the complaint. On appeal the Second Department reversed in part, ruling that Cypress Hills held an implied easement to cross the Parkway at the location of the subject bridges and the underpass, but had no right to the physical passageway itself. The court found the easement implied by use of the bridges since the Parkway’s construction. Nevertheless, the burden of maintaining the easement fell on Cypress Hills and the fact that the City built the bridges in the first place did not change the burden nor make the City responsible for repairing or replacing the bridges. The court reviewed the initial language for the Parkway’s condemnation and noted that it expressly required cemeteries to construct its own bridges.

Cypress Hills Cemetery v. City of New York, 2006 N.Y. Slip Op. 10009, (2nd Dep’t Dec. 26, 2006).

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