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Court Discusses ‘One Dollar Clause’ in Real Estate Case

Probate Lawyers said that records show that this is a proceeding in eminent domain to acquire title to real property required for the widening of an Avenue from one Road to another. This proceeding involves matters of the estate, not pertaining to probate but which affects the estate by the City’s road widening project. It is undisputed that the claimant owned a parcel 100 feet by 100 feet on the specific Avenue upon which is a building approximately 40 feet in depth and 100 feet wide, fronting on the Avenue and on or close to the building line. It consists of 5 stores. The City has taken 1,852 square feet of the claimant’s 10,000 square feet. This 1,852 square feet includes 1,340 square feet on the front of the building. In short, some 14 feet must be sliced off the front of the building for its entire width. The entire parcel, including the building, was purchased from the City of New York at public auction by the fee claimant in 1957.

The issue presented is whether the claimant fee owner is entitled to One Dollar or substantial damages resulting from the acquisition of a portion of the building. The determination of this issue requires a construction of this ‘One Dollar Clause’. Such clause appears also in the brochure of sale which gave a description of the property, its location, the upset price and the terms and conditions of sale.

An Estate Lawyer said the City of New York maintains that the purchaser had full knowledge of the proposed acquisition, as shown on the damage map; that the deed stated that the claimant ‘shall only be entitled to compensation for such acquisition to the amount of One Dollar’; that the above language in the deed is clear and unambiguous; that the claimant knew that the front part of the building would eventually be chopped off, damaging the remainder and that damages would be limited to One Dollar. The claimant fee owner agrees that the language of the deed is clear and unambiguous but contends that the award of One Dollar applies only to the land and the portion of the building within the bed of the mapped street; and claimant requests an award for consequential damage to the portion of the building not within the bed of the mapped street.

Manhattan Probate Lawyers said that the court ruled that the Real Property Law, Sec. 240, Subdivision 3, states that, ‘Every instrument creating, transferring, assigning or surrendering an estate or interest in real property must be construed according to the intent of the parties, so far as such intent can be gathered from the whole instrument, and is consistent with the rules of law.’ ‘But a reservation or grant in a deed, like every other contract ‘must be construed according to the intent of the parties, so far as such intent can be gathered from the whole instrument, and is consistent with the rules of law.’ It is only when language used in a conveyance ‘is susceptible of more than one interpretation’ that the courts will look into surrounding circumstances, the situation of the parties, etc.’ In L. C. Stroh & Sons, Inc. v. Batavia Homes & Dev. Corp., the Appellate Division stated: ‘The Court of Appeals has stated that ‘when words in a deed ‘have a definite and precise meaning, it is not permissible to go elsewhere in search of conjecture in order to restrict or extend the meaning.’ That is the first rule of construction, and in this case we need no other.’

New York City Probate Lawyers said this court finds that the words in the ‘One Dollar Clause’ have a definite and precise meaning, namely, that the sum of One Dollar constitutes the compensation for the portions of the land and building within the bed of the mapped street but do not preclude claimants’ rights to damage resulting to the remaining building and fixtures. There is nothing in the record to substantiate the contention of the City that it was the understanding and intention of the parties to the sale of the property in 1957 that the sum of One Dollar would constitute the total compensation, including consequential damages, for the future condemnation. The conclusion of this court is that the fee claimant is entitled to payment for consequential damages to the remaining building and the tenants in the building are entitled to payment upon their fixture claims.

Even if this deed contained ambiguous language, the general rule is that when a deed contains ambiguous language, the ambiguity is to be construed most strongly against the grantor and in favor of the grantee. Furthermore, since it is not disputed that the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York prepared the deed, any ambiguity would have to be construed against the City on the principle that any ambiguity in a written contract must be resolved against the party who drew the contract.

With respect to consequential damage, the appraiser for the fee claimant testified that the land that remained after the taking would not suffer any damage but the building that remained would have lost its entire front; that to rebuild the front would not be practical from a financial point of view since the replacement cost would exceed the value of the remaining portion of the building, which he estimated at $23,300. He arrived at this amount by pro-rating the portion of the building lying within the street area and the portion of the building not lying within the street area. His written appraisal fixes $35,300 as the sound value of the entire building and $23,300 as the total damage to the 66% Portion of the building left after the taking. It was stipulated at the beginning of the trial that approximately one-third of the building was in the bed of the Avenue as mapped.

The appraiser for the City testified that the building was rendered valueless as a result of the taking and agreed with the claimant’s appraisers’ method of evaluation but arrived at a value of $20,748 for the remaining 2/3 of the building not in the bed of the street. Upon all the evidence, the court awards the sum of One Dollar for the land and portion of the building within the bed of the mapped street and the sum of $22,000 for the consequential damage to the remaining portion of the building.

Many cases presented before the proper courts involves the estate. Such proceedings may pertain to probate, will contest, estate administration and similar cases involving issues as regards an estate which is the subject of the litigation. Stephen Bilkis & Associates, with offices located throughout New York, offers the services of its seasoned and expert Richmond County Estate Lawyers, or its New York Estate Litigation Attorneys who are willing to fight for your rights and protect whatever you are entitled for as a relief. Proceedings involving the estate can be a tricky process sometimes and may consume more of your time that what you have expected. Hence, consulting with your legal team regarding estate litigation and other estate matters assures you that the process will go smoother and your rights are protected. Don’t be a victim of the government’s exercise of its tremendous and wide scope powers. We should be able to defend which rightfully belongs to us, and which cannot be taken away without due process.

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