The decision has come down from the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, dated October 13, 2021. The court affirmed the original Supreme Court decision. The Landing "is prohibited from locking the gate on the subject footbridge during daylight hours and otherwise unreasonably blocking public access across the footbridge. "
We believe this decision ends years of litigation, which commenced when The Landing locked the gate leading to a footbridge over the Metro North railroad tracks, preventing access to the beach. We contended that the access was a right protected by a walking easement
FOWCAS wishes to thank our pro bono attorney Todd D. Ommen of the Pace Environmental Legal Clinic, and all of his students, over the years, who worked on this case.
FOWCAS plays a role in keeping Wickers Creek and the surrounding wooded area clean. In recent years we’ve noticed that the volume of trash that we remove has decreased. We are taking out trash at a faster rate than it is being deposited. During the pandemic, with people staying at home and not congregating in groups, the number of beer cans and liquor bottles found has been way down. Sadly, there is plenty of trash to be found each week, but we see evidence of long-term progress. The ravine is much cleaner now than it was twenty years ago.
We take special pride in removing shopping carts. We’ve lost count, but over the years, we’ve removed more than two dozen shopping carts. These are always a challenge. Hauling a shopping cart up a steep embankment is no easy task. Often the only way to do so is to push it end-over-end, repeatedly up the slope.
There was one shopping cart in particular that we found years ago in the south fork of Wickers Creek a short distance from where the forks merge into one stream (behind 150 Draper Lane). The problem was that it was under a large fallen tree and thus we were unable to remove it. We would inspect the site year after year, and while the conditions changed over time, there was no way to remove the cart. Until this year. When we arrived at the site a few weeks ago, we discovered that the during one of the recent torrential rains, the heavy log had been washed downstream and the cart was now free and waiting for us to remove it. One more shopping cart removed.
The torrential rainstorms that we’ve experienced this summer have led to massive soil erosion, particularly behind 110 Draper Lane, and to trees being uprooted and falling into the creek. To some extent, this is a natural cycle, old trees fall down, but with the recent severe weather events, likely caused by global warming, the pace has increased. What is particularly worrisome is that there is little or no new growth, perhaps due to the large population of deer in Dobbs Ferry. Evidence of this can be seen in the woods being Dobbs Ferry High School and also at the Juhring Nature Preserve.
In a clear and unequivocal decision which was issued on January 8, 2020, New York State Supreme Court granted a motion for summary judgment requested by FOWCAS and denied a motion for summary judgment requested by The Landing. The court ORDERED that the HOA shall not lock the gate on the footbridge during daylight hours or otherwise unreasonably block the Village residents from traversing the footbridge during daylight hours. In a related case, the court sided with the Village of Dobbs Ferry denying a motion requested by The Landing, preserving the victory that the Village won earlier.
This was a complete victory for FOWCAS, the Village of Dobbs Ferry, and all its residents. It makes Dobbs Ferry a more walkable community and preserves Westchester County’s “RiverWalk” plan of a 51.5-mile multi-faceted pathway paralleling the Hudson.
Sadly, The Landing has appealed both decisions. The cost of the Village’s defense will be borne by Dobbs Ferry taxpayers. FOWCAS notes that locking the gate at night has alleviated the nuisance issues that prompted a lock being installed on the gate to the footbridge. FOWCAS has never objected to locking the gate at night (despite how The Landing has characterized our position). We call on The Landing to accept the court’s ruling and put an end to this costly litigation.
FOWCAS wishes to thank our pro bono attorney Todd D. Ommen, who is the Managing Attorney, Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc. and Adjunct Professor of Law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law, at Pace University. Mr. Ommen is also a resident of Dobbs Ferry. We also thank his many students who worked on this case over the years.
A special message from the descendants of the first inhabitants of Wysquaqua (Dobbs Ferry).
We thank The Rivertowns Enterprise and editor Tim Lamorte for their permission to reprint the first two articles. The third article first appeared in The Ferryman, the newsletter of the Dobbs Ferry Historical Society.
We have sided with your elected officials in the Village of Dobbs Ferry in their legal action to require that the gate at the bridge over the railroad tracks be unlocked during daylight hours. We, and the Village, believe that this is required under the conservation easement and amendments which the developer of The Landing granted to the Village, as well as under the settlement agreement signed by FOWCAS and the developer of The Landing.
We understand that locking the gate at night has significantly reduced the problems. We are thrilled with this result and do not object to locking the gate at night.
We, and many other area residents, have a longstanding interest in The Landing property: because of its natural beauty, the abundance and diversity of its flora and fauna, and its history. The shell midden, located between 85 and 87 Landing Drive stands as testament to the land's use as a deer hunting ground, oyster harvesting site, and meeting place for the indigenous Native Americans, the Wickquasgecks of the Lenni-Lenapi nation.
FOWCAS and Landing homeowners have worked together in the past. The plaque, which sits across the road from the bridge, is the result of such a collaboration. FOWCAS was there before The Landing was built to hold the developer to a higher standard. We insisted on complete disclosure of the site conditions and history, on the preservation of as many trees as possible, and on a reasonable site density. We believe that The Landing is a better community, that your homes are more valuable today, because of our advocacy twenty years ago.
We are all stewards of the land that we inhabit. May we honor its past, maintain its fragile beauty, and share it with our neighbors.