West Village squatters win lot

By Adam Pincus | November 07, 2007 10:26AM

With Manhattan land at a premium, no property is too small to fight over — even a 200 square-foot lot behind a West Village home.

The couple living there recently won ownership of the lot, using a rare legal claim from an old property law known as adverse possession.

Mary and William Keena argued that the 8 by 25 foot plot of land was theirs because they and the prior owners of their property had exclusively used it for over 10 years.

An adverse possession claim in New York must prove that the original owners — in this case, the Hudmor Corp. — did nothing to claim their land for at least 10 years.

The Keenas used the strip of property behind their lots at 449 and 449 1/2 Hudson Street as a fenced-in backyard. The only access was through their property and the lot was included in broker advertisements for the land, according to court documents.

A lower court decision favored Hudmor Corp., which owns the neighboring corner property, as well as land behind the Keenas’ property.

But Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Richard Braun settled the matter last month in favor of the Keenas.

The couple’s lawyer Joshua Price, a partner at Sperber, Denenberg and Kahan, said adverse possession cases are rare in Manhattan, where large buildings with fixed borders are the rule. Price said he found this case interesting.

“In a very up and coming neighborhood suddenly someone owns land that belonged to someone else simply because they occupied it for a very long time,” he said.