Long Island Water-Supply Company v. City of Brooklyn

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United States Supreme Court

166 U.S. 685

Long Island Water-Supply Company  v.  City of Brooklyn

Under authority of chapter 737 of the Laws of New York for 1873 (Laws N. Y. 1873, p. 1100), as amended in 1881 (Laws N. Y. 1881, p. 443, c. 321), the plaintiff in error was organized as a water company. On September 15, 1881, it entered into a contract with the town of New Lots, by which it agreed to lay water pipes and mains in the streets of New Lots, and supply the town with water. The town, on the other hand, agreed to pay for hydrants to be furnished and supplied, as provided in the contract, at a specified rate per hydrant, the number of hydrants to be not less than 200. The term of the contract was 25 years. This contract was modified on July 2, 1885, but the modification contains nothing material to this controversy.

In 1886, by chapter 335 (Laws N. Y. 1886, p. 540), the town of New Lots was annexed to and merged in the city of Brooklyn, to be known thereafter as the Twenty-Sixth ward of said city.

The fourth section of this act provided, among other things, that 'the amount annually payable by said town for water supplied to it under existing contracts between it and the Long Island Water-Supply Company, shall, after this act takes effect, during the terms of said contract, or until said city shall purchase or acquire the property of said water company, as in the next section provided, be levied and collected from the property situated and taxable within the territory hereby annexed, and such amount shall be paid to the said water company by said city as it falls due from time to time under said contracts, and the said city of Brooklyn shall not distribute or furnish water for consumption of use within said territory, or lay any pipes or mains for the distribution or supply of water within said territory, until the expiration of the charter of said company, or until the said city shall purchase or acquire the property of said company, as in the next section provided.'

By section 5 the city was given power to purchase or condemn the property of the company within two years, but did neither. In 1892 the legislature passed another act (Laws 1892, p. 960, c. 481), authorizing the city of Brooklyn to condemn the property of the company, the first section of which is as follows:

'Section 1. The public interest requires the acquisition, by the city of Brooklyn, for the public use of the reservoir, wells, machinery, pipes, franchises and all other property of the Long Island Water Supply Company, and the said city of Brooklyn is hereby authorized to acquire the same for such use by condemnation, free of all liens and incumbrances whatsoever, provided that the proceedings herein, hereinafter and hereby authorized shall be commenced within one year after the passage of this act.'

Subsequent sections prescribed the procedure. Proceedings were had under this act. The commissioners appointed, as provided therein, valued the property of the company at $570,000, of which $370,000 was named as the value of the tangible property, and $200,000 that of the franchises, contracts, and all other rights and property, of whatsoever nature or kind, of the company, including therein the contract between the town of New Lots and the company. The special term of the supreme court, on June 29, 1893, made an order vacating and setting aside this report, and appointing new commissioners. The city of Brooklyn appealed to the general term of that court, which, on December 1, 1893, reversed the order of the special term and confirmed the report of the commissioners. The company then took an appeal to the court of appeals. That court affirmed the decision of the general term (143 N. Y. 596, 38 N. E. 983), and remitted the record to the supreme court, which court, on December 4, 1894, entered final judgment in favor of the city of Brooklyn, and thereupon this writ of error was sued out.

John F. Dillon and B. F. Tracy, for plaintiff in error.

A. G. McDonald and George G. Reynolds, for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice BREWER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).