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In re Application of Port of New York Authority

Decided: December 15, 1953.

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF THE PORT OF NEW YORK AUTHORITY TO ACQUIRE FOR PUBLIC USE FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF ADDITIONAL APPROACHES TO THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE IN THE BOROUGH OF FORT LEE, COUNTY OF BERGEN, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, CERTAIN LANDS OF JEROME REALTY COMPANY, LIMITED, A LIMITED PARTNERSHIP ASSOCIATION OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL.


Eastwood, Jayne and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Jayne, J.A.D.

Jayne

The plaintiff, Port of New York Authority, functioning pursuant to the statutory terms of chapter 4 of the Laws of New Jersey enacted at the session of 1931 and of the interrelated legislation of chapter 47 of the Laws of New York of the same year, was duly authorized by a resolution adopted by the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority to institute this action to acquire in fee simple by condemnation certain lands of the defendant Jerome Realty Company, Limited, situate in the Borough of Fort Lee, Bergen County.

The designated public use to which the lands are to be devoted is the construction, operation and maintenance of additional approaches to the George Washington Bridge to connect it with the Palisades Interstate Parkway in the Borough of Fort Lee.

Although the negotiations to purchase the lands had been ineffective, it was upon stated terms stipulated by the parties that the plaintiff take actual possession of the lands on July 11, 1952.

The condemnation proceedings progressed regularly. In accordance with R.S. 20:1-16 an appeal was prosecuted from the award of the commissioners to the Law Division of this court, where the struck jury resolved that the fair value of the lands as of July 11, 1952 and the consequential damages, if any, amount to $48,000. A conformable judgment

was entered in the sum of $48,000 together with interest in the amount of $2,400.

The present appeal occasions an appellate review of certain judicial rulings at the trial. The questions addressed to us are tersely stated by counsel for the plaintiff as follows:

"1. Was it error to admit as evidence of market value an executory contract of sale entered into subsequent to the date of taking between a third party and the condemnor in which the stated price was not the sole consideration and which price covered in addition to the value of the lands actually taken, compensation for damages resulting from severance of remaining property and compensation for damages resulting from partial loss of access to an adjoining highway?

2. Was it error to admit as evidence of market value a transaction wherein the grantor either owned or wholly controlled the outstanding stock of the grantee corporation especially when the conveyance was made at the stated price solely to support a mortgage loan?

3. Should the jury award in a condemnation proceeding be set aside as against the weight of the evidence when the only transactions supporting such award are inadmissible?"

Our examination of the record has accordingly been responsive to those specified inquiries.

The third and last-mentioned question projected by the appellant implies the unacceptable postulate that the award of the jury was not supported by any legally admissible evidence. Assuredly the fair value of land sought to be taken by the exercise of the power of eminent domain may be shown by the opinions of qualified expert witnesses. The interrogation of expert witnesses normally constitutes the most practicable medium of supplying the hypotheses by which the jury may be aided in determining value. Of the two acknowledged expert witnesses produced by the owner in the ...


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