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Vaccaro v. Jorling

ELR Citation: 21 ELR 20642
Nos. No. Proceeding Nos. 1, 2, 151 A.D.2d 34/546 N.Y.S.2d 470, (N.Y. App. Div., 10/19/1989)

The court holds that the state of New York had the authority to use its eminent domain power to acquire private property surrounded by forest preserve land in the Adirondack state park. The court first holds that owners of a life estate in the private property are not aggrieved persons under New York law when appropriation of the property by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was expressly made subject to their interest. The Commissioner of the DEC provided that the life estate will be honored and that the appropriation is subject to the life tenants' exclusive rights to a portion of the property. Nonexclusive rights of the life tenants are subject to the rights of the owner in fee simple; thus, the state's proposed use of the land, allowing the public to have access to the portion of the land in which the life tenants have a nonexclusive interest, does not deprive the life tenants of any legal right or unreasonably interfere with their interests. The court next holds that the Commissioner of the DEC did not exceed his authority in ordering the appropriation of the property. The state's eminent domain power may apply to forest preserve lands that are not unique or threatened. The court then holds that, although the applicable statutory provision does not expressly grant eminent domain power to the DEC Commissioner, exercise of the power does not have to be strictly construed, and the Commissioner is not precluded from exercising the power to accomplish DEC objectives of enlarging and protecting the forest preserve. The court holds that New York's Environmental Quality Bond Act allocates funds for acquisition of lands as additions to the Adirondack Park, and these lands are not required to be unique and threatened areas. The court then holds that the appropriation satisfied the constitutional requirement that the taking be for a public purpose and that the taking was not unreasonable or arbitrary.

Counsel for Petitioners
Thomas F. O'Donnell
Evans, Severn & Peet
231 Genesee St., Utica NY 13501
(315) 724-4151

G. Gordon Davis
Davis & Finucane
Church St., P.O. Box D-1, Elizabethtown NY 12932
(518) 873-6351

Counsel for Defendant
John J. Pickett, Ass't Attorney General
Department of Law, State Capitol, Albany NY 12224
(518) 474-7330