Stewart, Wald & McCulley ("SWM"), a leading Rails-to-Trails law firm that successfully represented landowners in Albany, New York, along the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, and that is currently representing landowners regarding another rail-trail conversion in Niagara County, New York in the towns of Newfane and Lockport, are now preparing to file suit for nearly 200 landowners in the United States Court of Federal Claims along the planned Empire State Trail extension / Beacon Line in the Hudson Valley.
For some time now, government entities from Dutchess and Putnam Counties along with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ("MTA") have been devising a plan to turn the inactive Metro-North railway from Beacon to the border of New York and Connecticut into a hiking trail or linear park.
This trail will run along the abandoned railroad, starting at the Beacon waterfront and heading east. It will go through Beacon, Fishkill, Hopewell Junction, Stormville, and into Putnam County. This would connect with the Dutchess Rail Trail, and the 750-mile Empire State Trail.
Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company ("Metro-North") filed an Application for Discontinuance with the United States Surface Transportation Board ("STB") to discontinue service over the 41.1 miles of railroad in Dutchess and Putnam Counties, New York, and later filed a trail use request with the STB, seeking to convert the 41.1 miles into a segment of New York's Empire State Trail.
SWM has been meeting with landowners who adjoin the railroad corridor to discuss the rail-trail plans and their property rights, including what a request for trail use would mean for those landowners. The Trails Act permits the conversion of abandoned railroad corridors into nature and hiking trails, which simultaneously preserves the rights of way for future use. The practice is known as railbanking and prevents the land within the abandoned railroad from reverting to the adjoining landowners. It grants the trail sponsor a new easement, thereby blocking the rights of the landowner to reclaim the property within the corridor.
Metro-North trail use request asks the STB to issue a Notice of Interim Trail Use for a stretch of 41.1 miles of the rail line, ranging from milepost 0.0 up to milepost 71.2, which would convert the old railroad corridor into a recreational trail. SWM expects the Notice of Interim Trail Use decision to be issued soon. This decision will permit the trail conversion, which would officially result in the triggering of a claim for monetary damages in favor of landowners against the United States government. Upon the issuance of the NITU decision, SWM will immediately file a lawsuit on behalf of nearly 200 landowners against the federal government in the United States Court of Federal Claims for a government taking of land.
Stewart, Wald & McCulley will be holding additional informational meetings for interested landowners on April 5, 2023 at 5:30 p.m., April 6, 2023 at 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m., and on April 7, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. at the Hyatt House in Fishkill, NY located at 100 Westage Business Center Drive.
SWM is neutral to the trail. “This lawsuit seeks to obtain compensation for landowners for having their land taken, which is their right under the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution. It has nothing to do with trying to stop the trail,” said attorney Steven Wald. Any lawsuit filed on behalf of a landowner is solely against the federal government and does not affect the trail project. Stewart, Wald & McCulley believes there are over 300 potential claimants who are not yet represented and hope they will contact the firm to have a no-obligation conversation.
View this press release on EINPRESSWIRE.