Thursday, May 06, 2010

Another look at the Peter Williams case: did easement come with building and could it be sold to opponents?

WNYC reports on the case brought by Peter Williams Enterprises (PWE):
He says the state took his property by eminent domain but forgot about air rights he acquired above an adjacent building nine years ago.
...Forest City Ratner says Williams never owned the air rights but instead a light and view easement that he forfeited when he gave up his building.
The lawsuit says that PWE was conveyed "certain property above the plane" of 24 Sixth Avenue, including, as noted in the underlying document, "the right and interest of light and air."

So that's property, but it isn't "air rights" in the sense of the right to build.

Does easement go with building?

It's plausible that a property owner would lose the benefit of an easement when that property is sold; as described in FindLaw, some easements typically remain with the property while others do not.

With the former, the "easement essentially becomes part of the legal description." However, as Williams's lawsuit states, the easement was never described in eminent domain proceeding.

And another twist

The New York Post reports:
Williams told the Post he was contacted by project opponents who are in the process of raising money to buy the air rights before Ratner can. He declined to give his asking price but said he’d "prefer" to sell to the opponents because he considers Ratner a "bully."
ESDC unworried

That might lead to a two-year condemnation process if the lawsuit is successful, but the Empire State Development Corporation isn't worried:
"This lawsuit is entirely without merit; rather, it is a poorly veiled attempt to obtain further compensation from the state and from Forest City Ratner Companies," an agency statement said. "We will vigorously defend this lawsuit, we will have it dismissed, and we will consider seeking sanctions against Mr. Williams and his attorney. We do not anticipate that this lawsuit will delay the Atlantic Yards project in any respect."

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