MTA Faces Adverse Possession Claim

701 Bay Street, owned by Mazzei and the contested lot next door featuring MTA signage. Image Credit: Google Maps

Business owner claimed adverse possession of land sought by the MTA for substation. The MTA ordered Staten Island business owner Ettore Mazzei to vacate an undeveloped lot adjacent to the Staten Island Railway transit line. Mazzei claimed ownership by adverse possession of the 5,000-square-foot lot next to his 701 Bay Street building. Mazzei sued the MTA, Staten Island Railway, and the City to establish title to the lot he has used as a parking lot for over 30 years. The MTA and Staten Island Railway, with the City’s support, moved to dismiss the complaint.

Richmond County Supreme Court Justice Philip G. Minardo granted the MTA and the Staten Island Railway’s motion to dismiss Mazzei’s cause of action alleging adverse possession. The Appellate Division, Second Department disagreed with the lower court’s determination, reversed, and reinstated Mazzei’s adverse possession complaint.

A municipality is not immune to adverse possession and can lose title when it holds real property in its proprietary rather than a governmental capacity. The court ruled that there were triable issues on whether the property was held by the government in a proprietary or governmental capacity and on whether Mazzei can establish adverse possession. The MTA and the Staten Island Railway had argued that it planned to use certain parcels of land surrounding the property to construct a railway substation, but the court ruled that the MTA failed to establish whether the property was held for a governmental use during all of Mazzei’s alleged period of adverse possession.


(CIT) Mazzei v. Metropolitan Transp. Auth., 83 N.Y.S.3d 590 (2nd Dep’t 2018).

By: Paul Sorensen (Paul is a New York Law School student, Class of 2020.)


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