Court orders LPC to reevaluate significance of house

Homeowners claimed house was wrongly described in Historic District report. In December 2004, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Douglaston Hill Historic District in Queens. The Mosleys, who had purchased a home in the District in October 2004, sued Landmarks, seeking to do away with the Historic District altogether or alternatively, remove their home from the District. The Mosleys claimed that the designation of the District was arbitrary and capricious because the Commission had denied designation only one year earlier.

With respect to their home, the Mosleys claimed that it was erroneously classified as historically significant because Landmarks had relied on incorrect and incomplete information included in the Douglaston Hill Designation Report. The Report listed the Mosley home under the early development section and indicated that it was built in the 1870s. It stated that the home dated back to the railroad’s arrival, appeared in the 1873 Beers Atlas, and described the home as largely intact.

The Mosleys introduced a 1919 survey showing a house that was different from both the 1873 house and their house. They also demonstrated that their house was a different size, shape and location from the house in the Beers Atlas, and presented an affidavit from an architect who determined that their house was built in the first quarter of the 20th Century. The Mosleys alleged they had made several attempts to contact Landmarks to present the newly discovered documents and information, but were told the status of their home would not be reconsidered. Finally, the Mosleys claimed they were unaware the house was to be landmarked when they purchased it.

Justice Paul G. Feinman rejected the Mosleys’ argument that the 2004 designation of the District was arbitrary or capricious simply because of an earlier 2003 denial. The new application was noticeably different and covered only half the area of the earlier application. Justice Feinman ordered Landmarks, however, to conduct a new examination of the Mosleys’ home, including the evidence they brought to light. The court found that Landmarks’ published report regarding the Mosleys’ home appeared to be “factually incorrect.” Justice Feinman dismissed the Mosleys’ claim that they were not given sufficient notice, ruling that Landmarks could not be held responsible for notifying potential future homeowners.

Mosley v. LPC, N.Y.L.J., Dec. 28, 2005, at 18 (Feinman, J.) (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct.).

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