Crystal Run Assocs., LLC v. State

Decision Date23 November 2015
Docket NumberNo. 119904.,119904.
Citation31 N.Y.S.3d 920 (Table)
PartiesCRYSTAL RUN ASSOCIATES, LLC, Claimant, v. The STATE of New York, Defendant.
CourtNew York Court of Claims

Michael Rikon, Esq., Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon & Houghton, P.C., New York, Saul R. Fenchel, Esq., Berkman, Henoch, Peterson, Peddy & Fenchel, P.C., Garden City, for Claimant.

NYS Office of the Attorney General by J. Gardner Ryan, AAG, Poughkeepsie, for Defendant.


In this proceeding pursuant to section 30 of the Highway Law and Eminent Domain Procedure Law, Claimant and property owner, Crystal Run Associates, LLC, seeks “just compensation” arising from the taking of approximately 44 acres of wooded land by the State of New York on February 18, 2011, in connection with a capital project (PIN 8006, .72, Map No. 250, Parcel Nos. 282, 283, 284, 285, and entitled Goshen–Fair Oaks, Part 2 for S.H. No. 41–3) to improve the Exit 122 interchange of a controlled access highway known as New York State Route 17 (the “Project”). Exit 122 is in the Town of Wallkill, Orange County. As a consequence of the appropriation, the original tract was reduced from 86 to 42 acres and split into two unconnected sections of 41 and 1.1 acres. The taking maps and description of the appropriated land were filed in the Orange County Clerk's Office on February 18, 2011, and served on the property owner on March 3, 2011. This proceeding was commenced May 26, 2011, when the Claim was filed in the Court of Claims. The Claim (entitled Notice of Claim) was served on the Office of the Attorney General on May 25, 2011. The maps and descriptions describing the appropriated parcel set forth thereon are adopted by the court and incorporated herein by reference. This claim has not been assigned or submitted to any other court or tribunal for audit or determination.


In a decision dated February 27, 2013, the Court (Ruderman, J.) denied Claimant's motion for summary judgment. On that motion, Claimant argued that the remainders were valueless as a matter of law because the highway to which Claimant was granted access in an express easement on the taking maps was not in existence at the time of the taking. The Court rejected the claim as unpersuasive and unsupported by case law. It held that “there was an explicit reservation of a right to access made in the original appropriation” and that “the express easement granted at the time of the taking evinces an intention to provide both remainder parcels with frontage and access to a highway along the property”. The Court also held that “there are numerous issues surrounding the State's express easement of access to the highway along' the remainder ... and the physical location of this highway as it relates to the remainder”. These issues have been considered and are decided in this Decision.

Following a 4 day non-jury trial, the parties submitted lengthy post-trial briefs and the Court visited the site in the company of counsel for the parties. Having considered the evidence and arguments of the parties, the case is now ready for decision on the merits.1

The interchange, locally known as the Crystal Run exit, was built in 1950. Its ramps provide ingress and egress for Route 17 to East Main Street/Crystal Run Road, a local public road that passes over the highway on a northeast/southwest skew using a two-lane overpass bridge. The name of the local road and the municipal jurisdiction over it changes at the overpass. On the east side of the overpass it is Crystal Run Road, a Town of Wallkill road. On the west side, it is East Main Street, an Orange County road.2

According to the State, the improvement project which makes use of the land acquired from Claimant will bring Exit 122 to current engineering standards, coordinate its ramps with nearby Exit 121, give access to Interstate Route 84, remedy severe traffic congestion and operational problems, and provide additional traffic capacity on local marginal/service roads needed to accommodate future growth.

The project includes removal of the existing overpass bridge and construction of a new, wider, overpass further to the south, one with a more perpendicular alignment in relation to Route 17, four travel lanes and shoulders. It will widen, relocate, and realign the East Main Street/Crystal Run Road approaches to Route 17 and build new interchange ramps on new alignments to meet the local roads at signalized intersections. The project will also create a Park and Ride facility and extend Crystal Run Crossing, another town roadway, to meet the new alignment of Crystal Run Road. Crystal Run Crossing, now a through road that meets the old northbound Route 17 ramps, will become a cul de sac access for the abutting properties.

In the first phase of the project, which is now nearing completion, the State is building the four-lane overpass bridge, the new approach sections of East Main Street and Crystal Run Road, a Park and Ride facility, signalized intersections, and an extension of Crystal Run Crossing. The State is also doing preliminary work for the construction of new ramps. In the second phase of the project, new interchange ramps will be built, signalized intersections will become fully operational, and the existing ramps, overpass bridge, and approaches to the bridge will be removed.


Prior to the appropriation, the subject property enjoyed 1,000 feet of frontage to the north with access on Crystal Run Road and approximately 1,300 feet of frontage to the west with no direct access to Route 17. There are vacant lands owned by others to the east and the Wallkill River lies to the south. The 86 acre tract situated in the Southeast quadrant of the interchange was irregular in shape and terrain but had excellent visibility, as portions of the site along the two roads were at elevations equal to or higher than the roads themselves. The terrain of the tract varied, but generally sloped downward to the south from peaks of 470 feet, located near the Crystal Road Run frontage, to a flood plain of the Wallkill River at an elevation of 340 feet. It had ample area suitable for development in an allowed use regardless of any difficulties or constrictions due to terrain, the flood plain leading to the river, and wetlands.

According to Claimant, the 86 acre subject property was the last large developable site along the Crystal Run Road/East Main Street corridor and the prime property in Orange County. The property was zoned by the Town for “Office Research,” a classification that could accommodate business, research, public, religious, medical, and educational uses on lots of 40,000 sq. ft. and larger in landscaped, campus-like settings with incorporated natural features, open spaces and substantial buffering from surrounding uses. Additional uses available by special permit include day care facilities, hospitals, filling stations and repair shops, restaurants, hotels, assisted living/nursing home residential facilities, and retail use. There are office, medical office, hospital, hotel, and retail developments located in the vicinity.

Claimant states that it planned to develop the site as Phase II of the Crystal Run Corporate Park development. No such plan has been submitted to the town to initiate the SEQR process or for approval of a development plan (see Ex. B, p. 32). Phase I of the development, which consists of approximately 650,000 square feet of office and medical office space in six buildings, all located on Crystal Run Road, was completed between 1983 and 2010, with a development investment of over $100,000,000. The 86 acre property at issue here could have accommodated a total development of 360,000 square feet of general office space, 160,000 square feet of medical office space, and a 200–room, 180,000 square foot hotel, or a total of 700,000 square feet of building space for Crystal Run Corporate Park Phase II prior to the taking.


On February 18, 2011 (“Taking Date”), the State acquired fee title to 43.68 acres of the subject property for the highway improvement project (see Ex. B, p. 11). The taking consisted of the entire westerly side of the property (Taking Parcels 282, 283, 284) with an extension across to the easterly property line (Taking Parcel 285), leaving a total remainder of approximately 42 acres in two pieces, a small, triangular, 1.1 acre parcel and a roughly quadrilateral 41 acre parcel.

The ten page taking map (Map 250, Parcels 282, 283, 284 and 285) appears at Exhibit 2 and is incorporated by reference in this decision. The date of the filing of the map with the Clerk of Orange County, as a matter of law, is the date of the State's acquisition of fee title to the property (see Eminent Domain Procedure Law § 402(A)(3) ), and the relevant date of valuation in the assessment of damages (see Gyrodyne Co. of Am., Inc. v. State of New York, 89 AD3d 988, 989 [2d Dept 2011] ).

Since the acquisition was made under Highway Law § 30 “for highway purposes,” the lands taken became part of the State's right-of-way and the properties abutting the right-of-way were imbued with the implicit right of access to the public way. Route 17, however, is a controlled access highway with entry and egress restricted to permitted motor vehicles at designated interchanges with other public roads and no broader right of access for abutting land owners absent an express grant (see Highway Law § 3[2] ). The taking, consequently, was “fee without access” to control or deny access for the abutting property across the right-of-way to a public road except “as such access may be reserved pursuant to the description and map of the property which has been ... acquired” (id. ).

The acquisition included all of the frontage along old Crystal Run Road, the only public road to which Claimant had an implied and legally enforceable right of access prior to the taking. As a result of the taking, the right of access on the entire property along its frontage on Crystal Run Road was extinguished....

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