This is a timely filed claim in which claimant Universal Instruments
Corporation (Universal) seeks damages caused by the partial appropriation of its
property, both in fee and for temporary easements, in the City of Binghamton.
Seven separate parcels were acquired by the State in this appropriation, either
in fee, fee without access, or by temporary easement. The total taking, in fee,
consisted of .77± acres. The various parcels were acquired in connection
with two related projects, the “Binghamton City: Brandywine Avenue
Extension, State Highway No. C52-3, Broome County, PIN: 9306.46.211”
and “City of Binghamton: Bevier Street, Broome County, PIN:
The parcels are identified and described on the following appropriation maps:
(1) Brandywine Avenue Extension: Map No. 58, Parcel 69 (fee without access),
containing 4,433 ± square feet or 0.102 ± acres;
(2) Brandywine Avenue Extension: Map No. 59, Parcel 70 (fee without
access), containing 6,322 ± square feet or 0.145 ± acres; (3)
Brandywine Avenue Extension: Map No. 51 R-1, Parcel 62 (fee without access),
containing 11,389 ± square feet or 0.261 ± acres; (4) Brandywine
Avenue Extension: Map No. 52 R-2, Parcel 63 (temporary easement),
containing 18,422 ± square feet or 0.423 ± acres; (5) Bevier Street:
Map No. 13, Parcel 13 (fee), containing 10,531 ± square feet or 0.242
± acres; (6) Bevier Street: Map No. 32, Parcel 34 (fee), containing
960 ± square feet or 0.022 ± acres; and (7) Bevier Street: Map
No. 14, Parcel 14 (temporary easement), containing 9,213 ± square feet or
0.212 ± acres (Exhibit 13).
The first four parcels were acquired by the State pursuant to §§ 30
and 349C of the Highway Law and the Eminent Domain Procedure Law, and the last
three parcels were appropriated pursuant to § 30, as made applicable by
§ 10, Subdivision 34-A, of the Highway Law and the Eminent Domain Procedure
As set forth in claimant’s appraisal, the takings occurred on three
different dates between July 23, 1996 and August 27, 1996, but the parties and
their respective appraisers have all agreed that the date of vesting and
valuation is July 23, 1996 (Exhibit 1, pp 1-2). The maps and property
descriptions set forth on the aforesaid notices of appropriation and maps are
hereby adopted by the Court and incorporated herein by reference.
As set forth above, this claim is therefore actually based upon seven distinct
takings in connection with two separate (but related) projects occurring on
three separate dates. Nevertheless, the parties and their appraisers have
approached this claim as a single valuation problem, addressing the cumulative
effect of these takings on claimant’s property. The Court agrees with
this approach and also finds that the date of vesting is July 23, 1996.
As acknowledged by claimant in its claim, the notices of acquisition were
served upon claimant on July 23, 1996. The claim was filed with the Clerk of
the Court of Claims on May 17, 1999. The claim has not been assigned or
submitted to any other Court, tribunal or officer for audit or determination.
The Court has viewed the property pursuant to § 12(4) of the Court of
Claims Act and § 510 of the Eminent Domain Procedure Law.
The subject property is bounded on the north by Bevier Street, on the east by
North Griswold Street, on the south by a permanent easement for Interstate
I-81/NYS Route 17
, on the southwest by the
northeast quadrant of the cloverleaf interchange at I-81/NYS Route 7 identified
as I-81 Interchange 4, and on the west by NYS Route 7, also known as the
Brandywine Arterial or Brandywine Avenue, and the southeast quadrant of the
four-way interchange with the Brandywine Arterial and Bevier Street.
The Subject property consists of several parcels which were acquired by
Universal in numerous transactions over a period of time. The original parcel
of the subject property was acquired by Universal on July 31, 1958, by deed
recorded in the Broome County Clerk’s Office in Book 981 of Deeds at page
189. This parcel is now identified as 145 and 159 North Griswold Street. A
portion of this property was conveyed by Universal to the Broome County
Industrial Development Agency on March 10, 1980, pursuant to a deed recorded in
the Broome County Clerk’s Office in Book 1302 of Deeds at page 344.
Universal, however, retained full occupancy and use of this property pursuant to
a leaseback agreement with the Industrial Development Agency, and is therefore
considered, for purposes of this decision, as the beneficial owner of this
portion of the subject property. Universal has the right and obligation to
purchase this property at the end of the lease term for $1.00.
The portion of the subject property known as 80 Bevier Street was acquired by
Universal by deed dated December 19, 1988, and recorded in the Broome County
Clerk’s Office in Book 1741 of Deeds at page 17. The parcel known as 82
Bevier Street was purchased by Universal through a deed dated February 27, 1989
and recorded in the Broome County Clerk’s Office in Book 1751 of Deeds at
page 845. The property known as 84 Bevier Street, consisting of a strip of land
approximately 27 feet wide and over 2,000 feet long, was acquired from the
Delaware & Hudson Railway Company by deed dated May 1, 1989 and recorded in
the Broome County Clerk’s Office in Book 1753 of Deeds at page 23. The
portion of the property known as 135 Montgomery Street was acquired from the
City of Binghamton by deed dated December 21, 1989 and recorded in the Broome
County Clerk’s Office in Book 1769 of Deeds at page 852. The parcel known
as 137 Montgomery Street was acquired by Universal through a deed dated June 25,
1992 and recorded in the Broome County Clerk’s Office in Book 1812 of
Deeds at page 392.
All of the above properties, except for 145 North Griswold Street and 137
Montgomery Street, were conveyed by Universal to Dorner Mfg. Corp. in 1991 to
reflect a company structure change. Copies of the deeds reflecting these
conveyances were received into evidence at trial (Exhibit 6 [159 North Griswold
Street], Exhibit 8 [80 Bevier Street], Exhibit 9 [82 Bevier Street], Exhibit 10
[84 Bevier Street], and Exhibit 12 [135 Montgomery Street]). A copy of the deed
from Universal to the Broome County Industrial Development Agency, previously
referred to herein and identifying the portion of the property known as 145
North Griswold Street, was received into evidence (Exhibit 7), and a copy of the
deed by which Universal acquired the parcel known as 137 Montgomery Street was
also received into evidence (Exhibit 11).
As set forth in claimant’s appraisal, Dorner Mfg. Corp. subsequently
changed its name to Universal Instruments Corporation, the claimant herein. By
virtue of this name change, the properties listing the owner as Dorner Mfg.
Corp. are now therefore owned by Universal Instruments Corporation, the claimant
The subject property is zoned IMD, as an Industrial Manufacturing District.
General, light and heavy industrial uses are allowed in this zoning district.
Additionally, commercial uses such as supermarkets, department stores, furniture
sales, and eating and drinking establishments are also permitted as of right.
Other uses such as shopping centers, hotels, motels, cinemas or theaters, and
indoor and outdoor sale of building materials and supplies are also permitted,
but these uses require a special permit to be obtained.
Patrick J. Gillard, the Chief Financial Officer of claimant, testified that
during the period of approximately 1988 through 1992, Universal contemplated an
expansion of its existing facilities, located on the original parcel, and that
vacant land to the west of the existing building was acquired in several
separate transactions (as detailed above) for this purpose. Ultimately,
however, Universal expanded its operations in other locations, and this land
(referred to by claimant as the West Parcel) remained vacant at the time of
Mr. Gillard also testified that at one time, the lands of this West Parcel
contained railroad yards and tracks, but that over the years use of this
property for railroad purposes had ceased as a result of the “Binghamton
Railroad Consolidation Project”.
Terry A. Zimmer, claimant’s facilities manager, discussed changes which
occurred in Universal’s operations as a result of this appropriation.
Specifically, Mr. Zimmer testified that the loading dock at the north end of the
plant had to be reconfigured, and a new semi-circular driveway had to be
constructed, so that tractor-trailer rigs could be safely loaded and unloaded.
Mr. Zimmer testified that this change in operation was required since the
appropriation on the south side of Bevier Street (in front of the manufacturing
plant) reduced the distance between the building and Bevier Street by
approximately 26 feet. As a result, after the appropriation there was
insufficient room to allow the tractor-trailer rigs to safely back to the
loading dock facing Bevier Street. Mr. Zimmer testified that the cost incurred
by Universal to install the new driveway in order to mitigate this condition
(caused by the reduction in building set-back) totaled $88,355.00.
Mr. Zimmer also testified that as a result of the taking, and since claimant
was required to construct the new semi-circular driveway in front of the
manufacturing plant, any and all access to the west parcel from Bevier Street
Marc Newman, Manager of Newman Development Group, testified that he had viewed
this site for commercial development prior to the taking, and that he had
entered into an option agreement with claimant to purchase the entire parcel for
commercial development. Mr. Newman testified that even though this option was
not exercised and the purchase did not go through, the appropriation which
occurred in this matter was not a factor in that decision.
Gary Holmes, P.E., the Binghamton City Engineer, Timothy Giblin, P.E., an
engineer with the State Department of Transportation (DOT), and Richard Kotasek,
P.E., the State DOT Engineer in charge of the Brandywine reconstruction project,
all testified on behalf of the defendant. These witnesses described the lower
Brandywine development project, which included widening of the road and
improvements in the access of this area. The purpose of the project was not
only to improve traffic flow, but also to improve drainage in the Bevier
Street/Brandywine Avenue area.
Mark A. Minoia, the City Assessor of the City of Binghamton, provided limited
testimony regarding certain tax certiorari proceedings involving the subject
The only other witnesses to testify at this trial were the appraisers for the
parties, Charles I. Francis for the claimant, and Kenneth G. Frommer for the
In performing his appraisal of the subject property (Exhibit 1), filed with the
Clerk of the Court of Claims on June 14, 2001, Mr. Francis, claimant’s
appraiser, determined that the subject property consists of two separate and
independent economic units, which he designated the “East Parcel”
and the “West Parcel”, and that each parcel was adversely affected
by the takings in different ways. This division, and the effect of the takings
on each parcel, are depicted on a sketch included with his appraisal (Exhibit 1,
According to Mr. Francis, the East Parcel consisted of 11.273 acres of land
prior to the appropriation, and was improved with the industrial manufacturing
plant consisting of 203,688 square feet of floor area. Included in the East
Parcel was the property acquired by Universal in 1958, as well as the 27 foot
wide strip of land acquired in 1989 from the Delaware and Hudson Railway
As set forth in his appraisal, the State acquired 0.264 acres in fee along
Bevier Street, which reduced the distance between the manufacturing plant and
Bevier Street (Map 13, Parcel 13, and Map 32, Parcel 34). As previously
testified to by Mr. Zimmer, this taking required claimant to restructure the
driveway leading to the loading dock area from Bevier Street, for which
Universal claims it incurred total costs of $88,355.00.
A temporary easement of 0.196 acres affecting the East Parcel was also acquired
(Map 14, Parcel 14).
The other unit, which he identified as the West Parcel, consisted of 9.823
acres, prior to the takings, of essentially unimproved land. This land was
acquired by claimant through several purchases from 1988 through 1992. At the
time of the takings, there was an old warehouse located on the northern portion
of this parcel.
Mr. Francis determined that the State acquired 0.508 acres of land in fee,
without access (Map 51-R1, Parcel 62, Map 58, Parcel 69, and Map 59, Parcel 70),
and that these takings consisted of strips of land running along the northern
and western borders of the property, eliminating access to this parcel from the
abutting public streets. The State also acquired a temporary easement of 0.261
acres affecting this parcel (Map 52-R2, Parcel 63).
In making his appraisal, and considering that claimant’s manufacturing
plant is located on the East Parcel, Mr. Francis determined that the East Parcel
had a highest and best use as an industrial manufacturing facility, both prior
to and after the takings. With regard to the West Parcel, consisting primarily
of vacant land, Mr. Francis determined that this parcel had a highest and best
use, prior to the takings, as vacant commercial land awaiting development.
Based upon his determination that the West Parcel lost all access to public
streets as a result of the takings along its northern and western borders, Mr.
Francis determined that after the takings, the highest and best use of the West
Parcel was limited to excess industrial development land, specifically for the
Universal plant located on the East Parcel.
In his determination of value, Mr. Francis primarily utilized the comparable
sales approach for both parcels, prior to and after the takings.
Based upon his analysis of comparable sales, Mr. Francis determined that the
value of the land on the East Parcel (if considered vacant and available for
industrial development) was $24,000.00 per acre prior to taking. The 11.273
acres, if vacant, therefore had a total land value, in Mr. Francis’
opinion, of $270,000.00 prior to taking.
Mr. Francis also utilized comparable sales of properties improved with an
industrial facility, and arrived at a value of $16.40 per square foot of
building gross floor area. Based upon the subject property’s 203,688
square feet of floor area, he arrived at a total value of the East Parcel, as
improved, prior to taking, of $3,340,000.00.
After the takings affecting the East Parcel described above, Mr. Francis
utilized the same comparable sales and, after adjusting for the loss of land
(and set-back distance) along Bevier Street, arrived at a total after value of
$3,280,000.00 for the East Parcel, a decrease in value of $60,000.00. With
regard to the West Parcel, Mr. Francis used comparable sales of commercial
property and established a value for the West Parcel, if vacant, of $175,000.00
per acre prior to the takings. Based upon the 9.823 acres attributed by Mr.
Francis to the West Parcel, he concluded that the West Parcel had a total value,
if vacant, of $1,720,000.00.
Since this approach assumed the property was ready for commercial development,
Mr. Francis deducted the sum of $20,000.00 (the estimated cost to demolish the
old warehouse situated on the property) and $28,000.00 (the estimated cost to
relocate a fiber-optic cable which was located on the West Parcel pursuant to an
easement), resulting in a net value, prior to the takings, of $1,672,000.00.
As previously mentioned, Mr. Francis concluded that after the taking, the West
Parcel was no longer suitable for commercial development. In his opinion, the
primary effect of the appropriation eliminated any legal, practical or economic
access to the site. He therefore concluded that the only reasonable use for the
West Parcel, following the taking, was for industrial development in conjunction
with the adjacent industrial property (the East Parcel). Mr. Francis therefore
utilized the same comparable sales that he had previously relied upon in
determining a land value for the East Parcel, and determined that the West
Parcel, after the taking, had a value of $24,000.00 per acre. He applied this
value to the 9.315 acres on the West Parcel remaining after the appropriation,
and arrived at a total value of $224,000.00. From this sum, he subtracted the
cost of relocating the fiber-optic cable ($28,000.00) resulting in a net value
for the West Parcel of $196,000.00. Mr. Francis did not take any deduction for
the cost of demolishing the warehouse ($20,000.00), since the warehouse had been
removed during the highway project.
With regard to the temporary easements affecting both parcels, Mr. Francis
estimated the rental value at 10% of land value, and also assumed that the
temporary easements were in effect for a period of two years. The temporary
easement affecting the East Parcel covered 0.196
, and the temporary easement affecting
the West Parcel was 0.423 acres. Mr. Francis utilized the land value of
$24,000.00 per acre for both parcels, and arrived at rental value of the
easements, for the two year period of $952.00 on the East Parcel, and $2,030.00
on the West Parcel.
Mr. Francis also concluded that claimant was entitled to reimbursement of
$88,355.00, representing the total cost to claimant of reconfiguring and
reconstructing the semi-circular driveway leading to the loading dock on the
north side of the manufacturing plant (East Parcel).
His determination of damages to claimant can therefore be summarized as follows
(Exhibit 1, p. 99):