Sauer v. New York
George W. Sauer, the intestate of the plaintiffs in error (hereafter called the plaintiff), became, on July 1, 1886, the owner in fee simple of a parcel of land on the corner of One Hundred and Fifty-fifth street and Eighth avenue, in the city of New York. There was then upon the land a building used as a place of public resort. The city of New York was and is the owner of the fee of One Hundred and Fifty-fifth street and Eighth avenue, which it holds in trust for the public for highways.
Before the passage of the act hereinafter referred to One Hundred and Fifty-fifth street had been graded from Eighth avenue in a westerly direction, until it reached a high, and, for street sues, impassable, bluff, on the summit of which ran St. Nicholas place, a public highway. The street, as laid out on the records, ascends the bluff, and continues westerly to the Hudson river. It extends easterly to the Harlem river at a point where the river is bridged by McComb's Dam bridge.
In 1887 the legislature of the state of New York enacted a law which authorized the city of New York, for the purpose of improving and regulating the use of One Hundred and Fifty-fifth street, to construct over said street from St. Nicholas place to McComb's Dam bridge an elevated iron viaduct for the public travel, with the proviso that no railways should be permitted upon it. There was no provision for damages to the owners of land abutting on the street. Subsequently the viaduct was constructed, resting upon iron columns placed in the roadway. The surface of the viaduct consisted of asphalt and paving blocks laid on iron beams. Opposite the plaintiff's land it is 63 feet wide and about 50 feet above the surface of the original street, which, except as interfered with by the viaduct, remains unobstructed for public travel. At the junction of the street with Eighth avenue it is widened into a quadrangular platform, 80 by 160 feet in extent. Near the plaintiff's land the viaduct may be reached by a stairway. By the construction and maintenance of the viaduct the plaintiff's access to his land and the free and uninterrupted use of light and air have been impaired, and the value of his property has been decreased by reason of the dust, dirt, and noise occasioned by the structure. This action was brought to enjoin the defendant from maintaining the viaduct, or, in the alternative, for the recovery of damages caused by it. There was judgment for the defendant by the supreme court, affirmed by the appellate division and the court of appeals. 180 N. Y. 27, 70 L.R.A. 717, 72 N. E. 579. After the last decision the case was remitted to the supreme court, where there was final judgment for the defendant, and it is now here on writ of error under the claim that— First. Plaintiff has been deprived of his property without due process of law, in violation of § 1 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and
Second. That the act under which the viaduct was constructed, as construed by the court, impairs the obligation of a contract, in violation of § 10, article 1, of the Constitution of the United States.
Messrs. Abram I. Elkus and Carlisle J. Gleason for plaintiffs in error.
Messrs. Theodore Connoly and Terence Farley for defendant in error.
Messrs. Henry B. Anderson and Chandler P. Anderson for certain property owners similarly situated.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 539-541 intentionally omitted]
Mr. Justice Moody, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court: