Mohonk Preserve

Mohonk Preserve

Litigation Update

Bonticou Crag Lands

In April 2013, after eight years of negotiation and litigation, the Preserve prevailed in a case involving adverse property claims to 45 acres of Preserve land, including a critical portion of the Bonticou Crag trail.

In this case, which began as a minor boundary line dispute, the neighboring landowner escalated his claims and rebuffed the Preserve’s numerous attempts to amicably resolve boundary line issues. Further, he  repeatedly committed wrongful acts on Preserve lands, including trespassing and cutting trees.

On April 15, 2013, the Preserve received a favorable decision that affirmed that the Preserve has long held title to the disputed lands and awarded monetary damages for the defendants’ illegal timber trespass.

The defendant in that case filed an appeal of the decision and on July 10, 2014, the State of New York Supreme Court  unanimously upheld the trial court's decision that the Preserve is the ower of the lands in question. 

Coxing Area Lands

In a second case involving adverse property claims to 71.45 acres of Preserve land in the Town of Rochester, the Preserve won on appeal in 2015 after over a decade of litigation.

Mohonk Preserve legally purchased the land in question in 1994 from a long-time Shawangunk Ridge family whose direct ownership dated back to 1940, with an unbroken and uncontested chain of title dating back to the 1800s. (See the article The Nils J. Johanson Parcel: Continuing a Family Tradition of Stewardship and Love that appeared in the Summer 1994, No. 100 issue of the Mohonk Preserve newsletter.) The property’s boundaries were clearly posted and it was patrolled regularly by Preserve staff, and no subsequent contest of ownership was made for at least nine years.

In 2004, after repeated incursions by a neighboring landowner onto Preserve property which included removing Preserve signs and cutting trees, and over years of attempts by the Preserve to reach an amicable resolution, the Preserve’s title insurance company brought an action to quiet title on our behalf as a means of last resort.
 
An initial adverse ruling in 2014 by a Supreme Court judge in Ulster County was appealed and in July of 2015, the State of New York Supreme Court Appellate Division ruled in favor of the Preserve in a unanimous decision on both the facts and the law of this case. A subsequent motion by the adjoining landowners seeking to have the appellate case re-argued was denied in February, 2016, affirming the Preserve's ownership of the property and conclusively ending this particular channel of litigation. 

Unfortunately, this was not the end of the story. Just days after their failed November 2015 failed Court of Appeals bid, the adjoining landowners "sold" the property to a resident of Utah and a fraudulent deed was filed in the Ulster County Clerk's Office, necessitating the Preserve to file an "Action to Quiet Title" lawsuit to expunge the fraudulent deed.

In late June 2016, Mohonk Preserve received a ruling in the organization's favor on all issues in this case. In his decision and order, Judge Christopher E. Cahill granted a summary judgment in favor of Mohonk Preserve, specifically noting "the fraudulent and deceitful nature of defendants Fink and Pardini is painfully apparent," and "little this court has seen has been more disingenuous and fraudulent or more disdainful of judicial process." Attorneys fees and court costs were also awarded to the Preserve.

The lengthy litigation in both of these cases underscores the importance of the Preserve’s critical land protection work, which deals not only with acquisition of lands and conservation easements, but with the perpetual protection of the lands in our care. With your continued support, we will remain steadfast in our half-century heritage of saving the land for life.