Regulatory Taking and Inverse Condemnation: Taxi Medallions and Wetland Building Permits

In two separate decisions on August 15, 2016, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York rejected regulatory taking and inverse condemnation claims.

The first decision is about the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s (“TLC”) commitment to “adopt regulations requiring that half of the city’s more than 13,000 yellow cabs be accessible to people with disabilities within six years.”  Singh v. Joshi, 152 F. Supp. 3d 112 (E.D.N.Y. 2016).

The plaintiffs are three individual TLC medallion holders who argued that, among other things, the regulations amount to an unconstitutional taking of private property without just compensation because the cost of the regulations are “to be borne by the individual owners of the medallions required for the operation of a yellow cab.”

The court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim because it held that the claim was not ripe according to Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank, 473 U.S. 172 (1985), which stands for the proposition that “if a State provides an adequate procedure for seeking just compensation, the property owner cannot claim a violation of the Just Compensation Clause until it has used the procedure and been denied just compensation.”  Singh v. Joshi, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107648, No. 15-CV-5496-FB-VMS at *8 (E.D.N.Y. 2016) (quoting Williamson County).  The plaintiffs had not sought compensation for the alleged value of their medallions.

The plaintiffs argued that they should be exempt from Williamson County for two reasons. First, its requirements do not apply because the plaintiffs were seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, in addition to money damages.  The court rejected this argument, stating that there was no reason why just compensation would not remedy the alleged taking here.

Second, the plaintiffs argued that New York does not have a procedure for seeking just compensation for a taking of personal property.  The court stated that although the New York Eminent Domain Procedure Law (“EDPL”) applies only to real property, EDPL § 104, the plaintiffs could still bring a cause of action for inverse condemnation under Article I, Section 7 of the New York Constitution.  Further, the plaintiffs could have sought compensation under the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules Article 78.

Therefore, the court rejected the takings claims as unripe because the plaintiffs must first have sought compensation through available state procedures.

 The second recent decision is about a property owner who sought approval to construct a building on her property, located at 401 Paterson Avenue in Staten Island, New York, from the defendant the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”).  Hensler v. New York State Dep’t of Envtl Conservation, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107751, 16-CV-3445 (MKB) (E.D.N.Y. 2016).  The DEC denied the plaintiff’s permit application even though, allegedly, a neighboring property with similar characteristics received approval from the DEC for a new structure within the past year.

The plaintiff argued that the permit denial violated, among other things, her Fifth Amendment rights, by engaging in a regulatory taking of private property without just compensation.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s inverse condemnation claim, stating that the claims were unripe according to Williamson County.

Evidently, because of Williamson County, plaintiffs who allege an inverse condemnation, regulatory taking, de facto taking, or an eminent domain claim are usually deprived of a federal venue and should therefore at least file their claims in New York State court.

This firm successfully represented Staten Island property owners in eminent domain proceedings whose properties contained designated wetlands. See Matter of New Creek Bluebelt, Phase 4, 122 A.D.3d 859 (2d Dep’t 2014); Matter of City of New York [Staten Island Land Corp.], 48 Misc. 3d 1202(A) (Sup. Ct. Richmond County 2015); Matter of City of New York [Yeshivas Ch’san Sofer, Inc.], 47 Misc. 3d 1229(A) (Sup. Ct. Richmond County 2015); Matter of City of New York [196 Slater Blvd Building Corp.], Index No. 4018/07 (Sup. Ct. Richmond County 2015); Matter of City of New York [Baycrest Manor, Inc.], 46 Misc. 3d 1219(A) (Sup. Ct. Richmond County 2014); Matter of City of New York [Ramfis Realty, Inc.], 37 Misc. 3d 1207(A) (Sup. Ct. Richmond County 2012).

Posted in Eminent Domain, Inverse Condemnation, Recent cases, Regulatory Taking, Wetlands
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