FOWCAS has brought a lawsuit to assure access by Dobbs Ferry residents to the easement at The Landing. Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic is representing us in the New York State Supreme Court.
Access by the general public was promised FOWCAS by the Landing developer in a court-ordered settlement in 2000. Following up on this, the Village and the developer agreed to a walking easement, but restricted it to Dobbs Ferry residents. As is clear in the settlement papers, the Landing and its successors were to further the easement by maintaining the footbridge that goes over MetroNorth railroad tracks and links Wickers Creek Archaeological Site with Nuns Beach.
In May 2016, The Landing Homeowners Association locked the gate on the footbridge. The Village cited this as a violation of the easement and initiated a lawsuit against the Homeowners Association. The gate is now open during daylight hours while the case is pending in New York State Supreme Court.
We fear that if the Village does not prevail in its suit, the Homeowners Association will lock the gate permanently. FOWCAS has entered the legal arena because (a) some Dobbs Ferry residents who found themselves locked out asked us for help to gain access; (b) our settlement agreement makes clearer than elsewhere that the footbridge must be maintained by the Homeowners Association to allow walking on the easement, including Nuns Beach; and (c) the Homeowners Association rebuffed our attempt to work this out amicably. Locking the footbridge does not further the ability of Dobbs Ferry residents to walk on the easement—indeed, it largely prevents residents from even accessing Nuns Beach.
The Homeowners Association argues that they locked the gate because disruptive people were getting onto the beach. They subsequently reported that locking the gate just at night has significantly reduced the problems. They propose a key fob system—which we see as unwieldy, overly restrictive, and a violation of their obligation to further the walking easement.
Access to the beach is important to both Dobbs Ferry residents and the broader public. For example, the footbridge is a vital link in “RiverWalk,” the plan for a path along the Hudson River in Westchester County. Access to such a path could also give Landing residents a benefit -- a convenient connection to Dobbs Ferry’s Waterfront Park and train station.