In Maryland, there is an open question about whether a water view can be protected from being blocked by a neighbor. A New York court has recently looked at this question in City of New York v. Gowanus Industrial Park. This case raises the question of when and how a riparian rights holder is protected from someone else’s infringing upon their view. The actual case is reproduced in its entirety below. It confirms the basic tenants of riparian rights law — the riparian owner (in this case the City) has the right to require that a neighbor remove a fence or other structure which interferes with their riparian rights. This case confirms that one of those rights is the right to a view of the water. Its most interesting feature may be the fact that Gowanus actually owned the bottom of the basin in question, as well as the riparian rights along the other shore, and it therefore had some rights to limit the City’s use of and access to the waters.
— N.Y.S.2d —-, 2009 WL 2960912 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept.), 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 06498
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.
CITY OF NEW YORK, respondent,
GOWANUS INDUSTRIAL PARK, INC., appellant.
Sept. 15, 2009.
STEVEN W. FISHER, J.P., HOWARD MILLER, DANIEL D. ANGIOLILLO, and L. PRISCILLA HALL, JJ.
*1 In an action, inter alia, for a judgment pursuant to Environmental Conservation Law § 15-701(6) declaring that the defendant’s construction of a wall along the northern terminus of the Henry StreetBasin unlawfully interferes with the plaintiff’s riparian rights in and to the Henry Street Basin, and a mandatory injunction compelling the plaintiff to remove that wall or cause it to be removed, the defendant appeals, as limited by its brief, from so much of an order of the Supreme Court, Kings County (Miller, J.), dated June 27, 2008, as granted those branches of the plaintiff’s cross motion which were for summary judgment on the first cause of action declaring that the plaintiff has riparian rights in and to the Henry Street Basin, on the third cause of action declaring that the wall unreasonably interferes with the plaintiff’s riparian rights in and to the Henry Street Basin, on the sixth cause of action declaring that the wall constitutes a public nuisance, and for a mandatory injunction compelling the plaintiff to remove the wall or cause it to be removed, and to restore access to the Henry Street Basin, within 90 days of service of that order upon it, unless some other satisfactory arrangement could be reached between the parties to assure the plaintiff of its right, as a riparian owner, to gain access to the Henry Street Basin.
ORDERED that the order is affirmed insofar as appealed from, with costs, and the matter is remitted to the Supreme Court, Kings County, for the entry of an appropriate declaratory judgment.
In 1997 the defendant, Gowanus Industrial Park, Inc. (hereinafter GIP), acquired two parcels of real property-one consisting of certain bottomlands of the Henry Street Basin (hereinafter the Basin), a navigable body of tidal water, and another located above water level on the western side of the Basin.The plaintiff, City of New York, owns two parcels of real property located on the northern side of the Basin, which it operates as a park. In February 2002 GIP constructed a wall measuring 18 feet in height and 200 feet in length on the northern side of the Basin. The City commenced this action seeking, inter alia, the removal of the wall on the grounds that it unreasonably interfered with its riparian/littoral rights to the Basin, was unlawfully constructed, and constituted a private and public nuisance.
GIP moved for summary judgment and the City cross-moved for summary judgment. In an order dated June 27, 2008, the Supreme Court, insofar as relevant to this appeal, granted those branches of the City’s cross motion which were for summary judgment on the first cause of action declaring that it has riparian rights to the Basin, on the third cause of action declaring that the wall unreasonably interfered with its riparian rights to the Basin, on the sixth cause of action declaring that the wall constituted a public nuisance, and for a mandatory injunction compelling the plaintiff to remove the wall, or cause it to be removed.
*2 The City demonstrated its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on its first cause of action for a judgment declaring that it possessed riparian rights in and to the Basin by establishing that its property directly abutted the Basin, a navigable waterway ( see Town of Oyster Bay v. Commander Oil Corp., 96 N.Y.2d 566, 571; Tiffany v. Town of Oyster Bay, 234 N.Y. 15; Mascolo v. Romaz Props., Ltd., 28 AD3d 617, 618; Bravo v. Terstiege, 196 A.D.2d 473, 475; see generally Winegrad v. New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 N.Y.2d 851, 853). Specifically, the City submitted, inter alia, Letters Patent for its property, indicating that it shares a common boundary with the Basin, and a certified 2002 City survey, which was also authenticated by affidavit, confirming that the City’s property directly abuts the Basin.
In opposition, GIP failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to the City’s entitlement to a declaration of its riparian rights. Specifically, the 2001 survey submitted by GIP was not in admissible form, as the 2001 survey was unsigned, uncertified, and submitted without an affidavit by the preparer of the survey, and thus could not support its contention that there was a strip of land between the Basin and the City’s property ( see Miller v. Powers, 53 AD3d 1125, 1127-1128; Dewey v. Gardner, 248 A.D.2d 876, 878).
The City’s right of access as a riparian owner is not absolute, but is qualified by GIP’s rights as the owner of the Basin ( see Town of Oyster Bay v. Commander Oil Corp., 96 N.Y.2d at 572; Hedges v. West Shore R.R. Co., 150 N.Y. 150, 158). When the parties’ rights are in conflict, the court must strike the correct balance ( see Town of Oyster Bay v. Commander Oil Corp., 96 N.Y.2d at 572). Additionally, what constitutes reasonable access is determined on a case-by-case basis, considering what is a reasonable, safe, and convenient accommodation of the riparian interests of the upland owner, here the City ( see, Town of Hempstead v. Oceanside Yacht Harbor, Inc., 38 A.D.2d 263, 264, affd 32 N.Y.2d 859).
In this regard, the City satisfied its prima facie burden of demonstrating that the wall unreasonably interfered with its riparian right of reasonable access to the Basin ( see Gucker v. Town of Huntington,268 N.Y. 43, 47-48; Tiffany v. Town of Oyster Bay, 234 N.Y. at 18-19; Arnold’s Inn, Inc. v. Morgan, 35 A.D.2d 987, 988). In support of its cross motion, the City submitted the affidavit of a manager of the City Parks Department and photographs of the wall which demonstrated that the wall-which was originally 18 feet in height and extends along the entire waterfront boundary-completely obstructs its riparian right of access to the Basin. In opposition, GIP failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to the reasonableness of the dimensions, placement, and configuration of the wall. GIP did not submit any evidence in admissible form to support its conclusory and unsupported allegations that the wall was necessary for public safety and to prevent trespassing ( see Alvarez v. Prospect Hosp., 68 N.Y.2d 320, 324).
*3 Contrary to GIP’s contentions, the mandatory injunction compelling it to remove the wall, or cause it to be removed, was not overly broad. A riparian owner, such as the City, has a right to equitable relief against material obstructions, including the abatement of an obstruction already constructed (see, Tiffany v. Town of Oyster Bay, 234 N.Y. 15).
GIP’s remaining contentions are without merit.
Since this is, in part, a declaratory judgment action, the matter must be remitted to the Supreme Court, Kings County, for the entry of a judgment, inter alia, declaring that the City of New York has riparian rights in and to the Henry Street Basin, that the wall erected by the defendant along the northern terminus of the Henry Street Basin unreasonably interferes with the City’s riparian rights in and to the Henry Street Basin, and that the wall constitutes a public nuisance ( see Lanza v. Wagner,11 N.Y.2d 317, 334, appeal dismissed 371 U.S. 74, cert denied 371 U.S. 901).
N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept.,2009.
City of New York v. Gowanus Indus. Park, Inc.
— N.Y.S.2d —-, 2009 WL 2960912 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept.), 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 06498
END OF DOCUMENT