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Read this one today:

Part of the route they would want to run this brook through what had been part of the old NYC Putnam Branch. What got me thinking was some of the comments, people wondering why the City couldn't take the right of way from the CSX under eminent domain, caused me to do some research, and it is a weird one (and folks, I am not a lawyer, this is just my reading of the items I found),

. There is a body of law around this, and it all apparently depends on how the land was acquired originally. If they bought it outright, then it would be CSX's property as inheritor of the old NYC right of way. But if it were leased or via easement, then it would revert to the original property owner whose land the railroad used. If I read it correctly, if the original use was easement or lease, then the CSX could not claim ownership; often according to another site that was legal advice for rail to trail projects, railroads often assume ownership of right of way because even they don't know the original details of how the land was acquire. If this property in fact was easement or lease, then the city could use eminent domain relatively easily with the real owners (if they didn't want to donate the land or maybe accept a token payment).

If the railroad owns it, unlike some of the comments, the city could take it under eminent domain. Since the property is not in use, hasn't been for 60 years+, CSX would have a hard time meeting the first criteria, that the city taking the property would hurt current operations. The second, that they may want to use it in the future, is a hoot (reconstituting the old Putt would be basically impossible, given the nature of the old route). The third one deals with safety issues, but again, would be very hard to make that case. Again this is just my interpretation of it, if Arnold or one of the other lawyers wants to look at this one, I for one would be interested  Given the size of the property and its lack of real value for anything but this, CSX could probably do itself better by donating it and writing it off on its taxes, but then again.......

It also for me made me look into the building of the railroads and how much was involved in building them, it was a complex mess of state and federal land grants for the right of way, outright buying land (often through shell companies or shill buyers, if the owner knew it was the railroad they would ask a lot more, knowing how right of way is laid out), or in getting easements or leasing from a property owner. I can just imagine what it must be like 150 years later or more trying to untangle who really owns a piece of old right of way. The other interesting thing I never thought of, when the Mohawk and Hudson was built, if they carried freight they had to pay a tax that was commensurate with tolls on the Erie Canal, because the Canal was publicly built they were trying to protect its interests from the railroad, which was built in the late 1820's or so, about 25 years after the Erie Canal opened.

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Ok big kid, why couldn't metro north rebuild at least part of the Put from hawthorne on down? The roadbed is intact behind the Westchester county police station down to the old NYC in the bronx.

very easy, Metro North doesn't own the right of way, CSX does, so they would need to buy it, same problem.  The other thing is that would be irrelevant to the point of the article, which is that even assuming CSX (Or metro North) wanted to reactivate that segment, it has nothing to do with the stretch of old roadbed that they want to use, that stretch is not usable, the Major Deegan and other development has reduced it to a footpath at best.  If the city was going to try eminent domain, one of the protections CSX would have is "we could decide to use that in the future", but like I just said, this segment is unusable by them or any other rail company.

@hokie71 posted:

@bigkid for those who can't get to the article, could you summarize briefly what is going on?

My apologies, I forgot that is beyond a paywall. The article is about a plan to 'bring to light' Tibbets Brook in the northwest Bronx, that today after leaving a lake in Van Cortlandt park is diverted into the sewer system that causes all kinds of problems. What they are proposing doing is basically rebuilding the brook after the lake, which would include using a section of the old Putnam rail bed (I think they are talking a mile or so), and then feed the brook into the Harlem River.

The problem is the old rail bed, that in many places is basically a footpath at this point, is owned by CSX and apparently they are playing hardball with it, I am guessing they are asking a lot of money for it. I did some research on rail property and eminent domain (based on comments in the article), and one of the ways a railroad can fend off eminent domain is to claim that they may have plans in the future to use that property, which in turn would hurt their potential operations (the other reasons a railroad can use to fend off an eminent domain action is that it would affect existing operations or that it would create a safety hazard, for example taking a piece of property that would prevent railroad workers from using it in case of an emergency on the railroad, like access to the site of a derailment for example).

Basically if the city wanted to claim eminent domain for this small stretch CSX wouldn't have any of the usual defenses against it. Obviously with eminent domain the city has to pay a fair value for the land and that value would be a lot less than what I suspect CSX is offering (I will add the article doesn't give any details on this, that is pure speculation).

Last edited by bigkid

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