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Decision No. 12,610

Appeal of MARGARET DIXON AND RICHARD HODZA from action of the Katonah-Lewisboro Union Free School District and John E. Thibdeau, relating to the location of a transportation pickup point.

Decision No. 12,610

(December 12, 1991)

Covey, Roberts, Buchanan & Lonergan, attorneys for respondents, George H. Roberts, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal from respondents' denial of petitioners' request to eliminate a transportation pickup point which allegedly interferes with the enjoyment of petitioners' real property. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners own real property on the northerly side of Route 35 in the Town of Lewisboro, Westchester County, where they reside. Near the southeasterly corner of their parcel, respondent district maintains a transportation pickup point, number 2426, which is commonly referred to as the "Hayseed Stop," apparently because it is located in front of a local business called Hayseed Realty. Approximately 264 feet further to the east, at the intersection of Route 35 and Waccabuc River Lane -- a public street running north from Route 35 -- the district maintains another transportation pickup point, number 2412, known as the "Waccabuc Stop." It appears that the Hayseed Stop itself is on public property and has been in existence for at least 15 years, and perhaps for as long as 25 years.

For some time, petitioners have maintained a private driveway which, although this is not entirely clear from the record, appears to run from a point near the Hayseed Stop in a northerly direction to Pamela Lane, a private road which runs in a generally east and west direction. Pamela Lane is parallel to Route 35 and at the rear of petitioners' property. Commencing in September 1989, petitioners have observed a number of students using their private driveway to reach the Hayseed Stop from Pamela Lane and the residential subdivisions north of it. Petitioners complained to the district transportation office in the fall of 1989, and the problem abated; however, in September 1990 the problem recurred. Petitioners then asked respondent's transportation office to eliminate the Hayseed Stop and consolidate it with the Waccabuc Stop. In a letter dated January 28, 1991, respondent Thibdeau, the district's Director of Support Services, denied petitioners' request, and advised that the district intended to maintain the Hayseed Stop.

Petitioners contend that by continuing to maintain the Hayseed Stop, the district is encouraging students to trespass on their property and has effectively invited students to do so, although they do not contend that the stop is accessible only by crossing their property. They contend that rather than eliminate the Hayseed Stop, the district has actually made matters worse by eliminating the Waccabuc Stop as a pickup point for junior and senior high school students. These students are now assigned to the Hayseed Stop. Petitioners claim that the district acted in 1985 to eliminate a pickup point at the request of a different land owner, and established a precedent in doing so. Petitioners further contend that the Waccabuc Stop is considerably safer than the Hayseed Stop, and that the Hayseed Stop should be eliminated on that basis. Finally, petitioners raise complaints with respect to the way the district has responded to their requests made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law.

The district contends that the Hayseed Stop is safe, has been in existence for at least 15 years, and perhaps 25 years, and that there has never been a request to eliminate it in the past. Respondents further contend that they have been threatened with legal action by the parents of students who use the Hayseed Stop in the event it is eliminated. Respondents claim that the Hayseed Stop is centrally located for junior and senior high school students who use it. Respondents further deny that the 1985 action taken in response to the request of a different land owner should be considered a precedent because of significant factual differences, and generally deny that they have in any way failed to comply with the Freedom of Information Law.

I find that the appeal must be dismissed because petitioners are not "aggrieved" within the meaning of Education Law '310 and thus have no standing to challenge the maintenance of transportation pickup points by a public school district. The requirements for standing have evolved in several cases before the New York Court of Appeals. SeeMatter of City of New York v. City Civil Service Commission, 60 NY2d 436 (1983); Matter of Bradford Central School District v. Ambach, 56 NY2d 158 (1982); and Dairylea Cooperative, Inc., v. Walkley, 38 NY2d 6 (1975). These standards have been applied in appeals to the Commissioner of Education (Appeal of Cardo, 27 Ed Dept Rep 373). As summarized in Matter of City of New York v. City Civil Service Commission, in order to establish standing, a petitioner must establish all three of the following:

(1) the interest asserted must be arguably within the zone of interest to be protected by the statutory or constitutional provisions sought to be enforced; (2) the administrative decision for which review is sought must be shown to have a harmful effect upon the party asserting standing; and (3) there must be no clear legislative intent negating review.

60 NY2d at 442-443.

In this case, petitioners have not satisfied the first element of the requirement. Petitioners are neither students who use the Hayseed Stop pickup point, nor parents of students, and they demonstrate no legally protected interest in either the safety of that pickup point or its location. If owners of real property had a legally recognized right to insist on the removal of pickup points which are not located on their property because some students may improperly traverse their property to get to the bus stops, public school districts would be severely hampered in their effort to provide a viable transportation program for their students. Public school districts have no duty to confer with private land owners about the location of transportation pickup points, which are located on the public right of way, and respondents' refusal to alter the location of a pickup point as requested by petitioners does not confer any additional rights on petitioners. As a result, the appeal must be dismissed.

Moreover, even if petitioners had standing, their petition fails to state a cause of action because the pickup point in question is not located on their property.

I note that petitioners' complaints about the handling of information requests pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law should not be directed to me, but may properly be heard only by the courts (Appeal of Alexandreena D., 30 Ed Dept Rep 203; Appeal of Krasinski, et al., 29 id 375; Appeal of Zook, 28 id 77; Matter of Keiling, 25 id 122).