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The Kim Story

 In 1988, Soon Duck Kim purchased property in Queens, New York, where she operated a car wash and leased space for an auto shop. Everything was going fine until June 1990 when the City of New York buried 2,400 square feet of her property under four feet of dirt. The city was raising the road in front of Kim's property by more than four feet. Under a city ordinance, the municipal transportation department could order property owners to fill or raise their lot at their own expense at any time.

But Kim filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that she was owed compensation for the large portion of her property the city took to raise the road. The New York Supreme Court in Queens County disagreed with the claim, accepting that that the city had the legal right to force Kim to fill her own property at her own expense. Kim appealed the decision, but the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division ruled against her as well, claiming that the city's dumping of more than four feet of dirt on her land "did not constitute a 'permanent physical occupation' of [her] property" that would justify her receiving compensation.

Undeterred, Kim appealed to the New York Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals ruled that Kim had no legal remedy for the city's occupation of her property because she purchased the land after the city had enacted the law in 1962. Her lawyers pointed out the unfairness of this interpretation because her neighbors who purchased land before 1962 would get just compensation. Moreover, her lawyers argued that the law was written in such a way that the city could have buried all of Kim's land to raise a roadway.

Kim took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that New York City's law is unconstitutional because it allows the state to take someone's property without having to pay any compensation. Unfortunately, in 1997 the High Court refused to hear the case.

Source: Pacific Legal Foundation