This Land is Your Land? Not in East New York, It’s Not


Have you ever looked at a vacant, trash-strewn lot in the City and thought: I could do something with that — a garden, a patio, maybe even a small summer home? Apparently Darren Miller did and, WNBC News reports, appropriated four acres of East New York for a car-parking business.

The cops shut him down yesterday, but instead of being grateful for years of opportunity, Miller is suing to get it back. “Miller’s lawyer called his client a ‘small businessman’ who under the theory of ‘adverse possession’ should now rightfully own the property,” says WNBC. “‘If you can find five acres of land, surround it with a fence and stay on it and operate it for 10 years — you can do it too…'”

Can you really?

In a 2001 paper, lawyer George K. DeHaven suggests not. He cites a Staten Island case in which plaintiffs fenced off land adjoining their own, and didn’t want to give it up when someone bought the claimed land years later. “The plaintiffs lost,” DeHaven says, “because they admitted that the fence was constructed on land that they knew did not belong to them.”

Call us cynical, but we doubt very much Miller thought that vacant lot on Erskine Street was no one else’s and his by right. Maybe this sort of thing makes sense in the wide-open spaces, but this is New York and Miller is a New Yorker, and New Yorkers know they don’t get nothing for nothing, especially real estate. We are in some sympathy with the “hundreds of irate truckers” who, the New York Post reports, had been using and paying for the parking lot and now have to take their chances on the mean streets of East New York. But we think Miller should just thank the Lord that he got away with it for so long.