New York Central R. Co. v. New York,
186 U.S. 269 (1902)

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U.S. Supreme Court

New York Central R. Co. v. New York, 186 U.S. 269 (1902)

New York Central Railroad Company v. New York

No. 234

Argued April 23-24, 1902

Decided June 2, 1902

186 U.S. 269


Without deciding that the briefs of counsel may be resorted to for the purpose of determining whether a federal question was raised in the state court, it is sufficient to say that a general claim made that a particular act of the legislature is violative of the state and federal Constitution is not sufficient to show that a federal right was specially set up and claimed or the validity of a statute was drawn in question in the state court when no such question was noticed in the opinion of the state court and the case was disposed of upon a ground wholly independent of a federal question.

This was a petition of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company, as lessee, and the New York & Harlem Railroad Company, as owner, to vacate certain assessments for regulating and grading, setting curbstones, paving, and other improvements to Vanderbilt Avenue East, in the City of New York, upon the ground that the property in question had not been, would not be, and could not be, benefited in any manner by the improvements.

The successive steps towards the proposed improvements were the adoption of resolutions by the local municipal legislature directing the improvements, the ascertainment of their cost, the making of a contract for their construction, and finally the assessment of the benefits upon the property, which in one case amounted to $4,687.82 and in the other to $12,626.72. Petitioners

Page 186 U. S. 270

filed before the board of assessors objections to both assessments upon the ground that they were unfair, unequal, inequitable, and unjust, and greater than the amounts assessed upon surrounding property. The two proposed assessments with these objections were transmitted by the assessors to the board of revision, which confirmed them.

Thereupon the two railway companies filed this petition, setting up the facts above stated and alleging that their lands assessed are held and occupied only and exclusively as a roadway upon which their tracks are laid, and over which their trains are run, and that there are no buildings or other improvements upon the land except such railway tracks; that the grade of Vanderbilt Avenue is from ten to eighteen feet above the level of petitioners' tracks; that there is no possible access from the land of petitioners to Vanderbilt Avenue, but, on the contrary, that the roadway was constructed under a contract between petitioners and the board of public parks, and was depressed to its present grade and solid stone retaining walls built upon and along the easterly and westerly sides of said land in order that access to and from public streets and avenues, including that part of Park Avenue or Vanderbilt Avenue East should be cut off and rendered impossible, and that no benefit could accrue to petitioners' lands by such improvements.

Petitioners prayed that the assessments might be vacated and the liens upon their lands discharged, but there is nowhere in the petition any claim of a federal right or a violation of the Constitution of the United States in any particular.

The case coming on to be heard before a special term of the supreme court held on July 21, 1899, upon the petition, and testimony taken by consent, it was ordered that the prayer of the petition be denied. The railroad companies thereupon appealed to the appellate division of the supreme court, which affirmed the order of the special term. An appeal was taken to the court of appeals, where the order of the appellate division was affirmed, and the case remitted to the supreme court, which ordered the judgment of the court of appeals to be made the order and judgment of that court. No written opinion was filed by the court of appeals.

Page 186 U. S. 271

Whereupon the railway companies applied for, and were allowed, a writ of error from this Court.

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