Amtrak Waited Too Long to Protect Property Right

     ALBANY (CN) – Amtrak can’t derail New York State’s bid to acquire 23 acres of the railroad’s land for a new park, the 2nd Circuit ruled.
     National Railroad Passenger Corp. sued New York’s Transportation Department in April 2012, after the state said it intended to carry out plans to acquire Amtrak property to make way for the Bronx River Greenway.
     The lawsuit was filed beyond the reach of the state’s 6-year statute of limitations, the Circuit found, siding with U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, who had earlier tossed the case as time-barred.
     “Amtrak could have challenged the condemnation” at that time under eminent domain laws, ‘but did not,” U.S. Circuit Judge Ralph Winter Jr. wrote.
     The parties had previously tried to hammer out a sale of the land, but the deal fell through after Amtrak allegedly demanded it be absolved that potential environmental cleanup efforts, and to be given the right to pre-approve work on the land.
     Still wanting to move forward with the greenway project, the state in 2005 began an effort to condemn the land and take it through eminent domain.
     But according to court documents, the state’s notice of its intentions were sent to the wrong person at Amtrak, and as a result, the railroad never got an opportunity to voice its objections at a May 19, 2005 hearing on the plan.
     In February 2008, the state carried out its plan to condemn the property, but Amtrak apparently had no idea this occurred. Two years later, the railroad sent the transportation department an “agreement of sale,” but the state said it had already acquired the titles to the land by eminent domain. Another two years elapsed, and then Amtrak sued.
     In its complaint the railroad argued that the botched e-mail communication meant it did not get formal notice about the state’s plans to take its land.
     “But compliance with formal notice requirements is not necessarily the trigger beginning the relevant limitations period,” Judge Winter wrote. “Rather, Amtrak’s claims accrued – and the limitations clock started running – when Amtrak had reason to know of its injury.”
     Amtrak also contended that it is being subjected to an “ongoing violation,” with the state’s entry and use of the land — meaning statute of limitations has not expired.
     But the circuit disagreed, adding that the state’s use of the land “is not even a violation of the law, because New York has legal title to it. To hold otherwise would toll the statute of limitations indefinitely for eminent domain challenges by Amtrak.”
     According to its website, the Greenway is nearly complete and runs the length of the river in Westchester County and the Bronx.
     

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