City may have to pay for seized land in Staten Island

City claimed that 97,000 sq.ft. property taken through eminent domain had no value. Cassino Contracting owned a 97,000 sq.ft. parcel in Staten Island, located at the southeast corner of Woodrow Road and Grantwood Avenue. The City later acquired title to the property, at which time the property was vacant and restricted by a declaration that the property would only be used as a storm water retention basin unless the City constructed a storm sewer.

During condemnation proceedings, the City moved to dismiss Cassino’s fee claim on the ground that Cassino’s appraisal report was invalid. The City argued that the property had no value. Since a storm sewer had not been built as of the vesting date, the City claimed the property should be valued as if the restrictive declaration was permanent. The City further argued that it was improper for Cassino’s appraiser to opine that the highest and best use for the site was as a speculative investment. The City also took issue with the appraiser’s valuation method, which discounted the unregulated use by 85 percent.

Justice Saitta denied the City’s motion, ruling that the City had failed to prove the land had no value. The City also failed to prove that no investor would purchase the property as a speculative investment on the expectation that the restrictions would be lifted in the future. And since Cassino’s and the City’s appraisal reports conflicted, further development of the record through a trial was necessary.

Cassino Contracting Corp. v. City of New York, 2011 N.Y. Slip Op. 21319 (Richmond Cty. Sup. Ct. Sept. 7, 2011) (Saitta, J.) (Attorneys: Michael Rikon, for Cassino; Michael A. Cardozo, Holly Gerstenfeld, for NYC).

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