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Palisades Interstate Park Commission v. Borough of Fort Lee

Decided: October 13, 1961.

PALISADES INTERSTATE PARK COMMISSION, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
BOROUGH OF FORT LEE, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT



Price, Sullivan and Leonard. The opinion of the court was delivered by Leonard, J.s.c. (temporarily assigned).

Leonard

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Division of Tax Appeals vacating an assessment for the year 1959 made by appellant upon certain lands owned by respondent. Originally, respondent appealed this municipal action to the county board of taxation and, upon affirmance, to the Division.

The respondent Commission is a bi-state, corporate municipal instrumentality. R.S. 32:17-4. The lands in question, consisting of approximately 32.78 acres, were conveyed to it in June 1944 and are located within the political

boundaries of the appellant borough. They are roughly rectangular in shape and are located at right angles to and contiguous with other lands owned by respondent, which run parallel to the Hudson River. Through them runs a highway spur, connecting the Palisades Interstate Parkway with New Jersey Highway Routes 4 and 46, this spur having been completed in 1954 or 1955.

At the Division hearing appellant conceded that the portion of said land comprising the roadway and embankment of the aforesaid spur was tax exempt and that only the assessment for the balance thereof, 18.18 acres, was in controversy. The same concession is made on this appeal.

The appellant espouses three reasons for the reversal of the division. They are:

(1) The respondent is not authorized by law to maintain park facilities in the area in question.

(2) The evidence indicates the lands in question were not used or reasonably maintained for public purposes on October 1, 1958, the assessing date.

(3) The moneys received by appellant "in lieu of taxes" does not bar the assessment.

I.

In order to fully comprehend this argument, the location of the various landmarks involved must be considered. The area concerned is the Palisades on the westerly side of the Hudson River just north of the George Washington Bridge. Hudson Terrace is a road running parallel to the river and approximately 400 to 600 feet west of the "crest line" of the Palisades. The disputed lands are at right angles to the river and west of both the "crest line" and Hudson Terrace.

The basis of appellant's contention is that respondent has no statutory authority to hold lands west of Hudson Terrace. It cites as authority for this N.J.S.A. 32:14-5, which provides as follows:

"Palisades Interstate Park Commission shall, from time to time, select and locate such lands lying between the top or steep edge of the Palisades or the crest of the slope in places where the steep Palisade rocks are absent and the high-water line of the Hudson river, * * * as may, in the opinion of the commission, be proper and necessary to be reserved for ...


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