Mapped street covers 48 percent of Amboy Road home. The 1918 City map allowed the potential to widen Staten Island’s Amboy Road by 80 feet. The mapped but unopened street line extended into the property located at 3290 Amboy Road at the corner of Buffalo Street, and covered almost 50 percent of the one-story house built years later on the lot. In 1984, James and Linda Royal purchased the affected property, taking out a $40,000 mortgage to facilitate their purchase.
In 2004, the Royals sued the City, seeking to force it to remove the widening street line or compensate them for the value of their lot. The Royals claimed that they needed to sell their property due to financial need, had approached a broker who would not list the lot, and spoke with several developers who told them to remove the line before they would buy it. At trial, the surveyor testified that the lot was zoned R3-1, which would allow construction of semi-detached oneand two-family residences or detached homes, and claimed that without the street line the property could be divided into two lots and sold for over $200,000 each.
The City submitted land records, showing that since 1918 the property had been bought and sold and banks had approved mortgages. The City also argued that the Royals failed to prove the site was unmarketable since buyers might be interested in the house or the area’s schools.
Justice Michael V. Ajello rejected the Royals’ claims, but also rejected the City’s argument that proof of past transactions proved the property was saleable, reasoning that the real estate market could have changed substantially since the Royals purchased the property. The court noted that the City had not provided any evidence of a recent sale of a similarly encumbered parcel or of a prospective purchaser qualifying for a mortgage. Nevertheless, Justice Ajello ultimately dismissed the Royals’ complaint without prejudice since they never placed the property for sale and could not show that they had suffered a diminution in value from the street widening.
Royal v. City of New York, 2006 NY Slip Op 26409, Oct. 4, 2006 (Richmond Cty.Sup.Ct.) (Ajello, J.) (Alan Gaines, for Royal; Michael A. Cardozo, Emily Cohen, for NYC).