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In re World Trade Center Lower Manhattan Disaster Site Litigation

New York Court of Appeals

November 21, 2017

In the Matter of World Trade Center Lower Manhattan Disaster Site Litigation.
v.
Battery Park City Authority, et al., Respondents. Stanislaw Faltynowicz, et al., Appellants, State of New York, Intervenor-Appellant, Santiago Alvear, Appellant, State of New York, Intervenor-Appellant,
v.
Battery Park City Authority, Respondent. Peter Curley et al., Appellants, State of New York, Intervenor-Appellant,
v.
Battery Park City Authority, Respondent.

          Andrew W. Amend, for intervenor-appellant.

          Luke W. Nikas, for appellants Alvear, et al.

          Daniel S. Connolly, for respondents.

          FEINMAN, J.

         This matter comes to us from an order of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certifying the following questions pursuant to Rule 500.27 of this Court:

         "(1) Before New York State's capacity-to-sue doctrine may be applied to determine whether a State-created public benefit corporation has the capacity to challenge a State statute, must it first be determined whether the public benefit corporation 'should be treated like the State, ' [(Clark-Fitzpatrick, Inc. v. Long Island R.R. Co., 70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382 [1987])], based on a 'particularized inquiry into the nature of the instrumentality and the statute claimed to be applicable to it, ' [(John Grace & Co. v. State Univ. Constr. Fund, 44 N.Y.2d 84 [1978])], and if so, what considerations are relevant to that inquiry?; and

         "(2) Does the 'serious injustice' standard articulated in [Gallewski v. H. Hentz & Co. (301 NY 164 [1950])], or the less stringent 'reasonableness' standard articulated in [Robinson v. Robins Dry Dock & Repair Co. (238 NY 271 [1924])], govern the merits of a due process challenge under the New York State Constitution to a claim-revival statute?" (In re World Trade Center Lower Manhattan Disaster Site Litig., 846 F.3d 58, 70 [2d Cir 2017]). We accepted the certified questions on February 9, 2017 (see 28 N.Y.3d 1159');">28 N.Y.3d 1159');">28 N.Y.3d 1159');">28 N.Y.3d 1159 [2017]).

         I.

         Plaintiffs in the consolidated appeal before the Second Circuit are workers who participated in cleanup operations in New York City following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The defendant is Battery Park City Authority (BPCA). BPCA was established by the State legislature as a public benefit corporation to redevelop blighted areas in lower Manhattan and to expand the supply of safe and sanitary housing for low-income families (see Public Authorities §§ 1971, 1973[1]). Plaintiffs initially brought claims between 2006 and 2009 alleging that they developed a host of illnesses as a result of their exposure to harmful toxins at BPCA-owned properties in the course of their cleanup duties. [1] However, in July 2009, the District Court dismissed plaintiffs' claims, together with hundreds of other similar claims against BPCA, on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not serve BPCA with timely notices of claim (see General Municipal Law § 50-e; Public Authorities Law § 1984).

         The legislature responded to these dismissals by enacting Jimmy Nolan's Law, which became effective September 16, 2009 (see L 2009, ch 440). The law amended the General Municipal Law to provide, in relevant part:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, including... section fifty-e of this article... any cause of action against a public corporation for personal injuries suffered by a participant in World Trade Center rescue, recovery or cleanup operations as a result of such participation which is barred as of the effective date of this subdivision because the applicable period of limitation has expired is hereby revived, and a claim thereon may be filed and served and prosecuted provided such claim is filed and served within one year of the effective date of this subdivision"

(General Municipal Law § 50-i[4][a], as added by L 2009, ch 440 § 2). The effect of the law was to revive the plaintiffs' time-barred causes of action for one year after its enactment.

         Many of the 9/11 cleanup workers whose claims had previously been dismissed, including plaintiffs, served new notices of claim on BPCA within the one-year revival period prescribed by Jimmy Nolan's Law. BPCA moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Jimmy Nolan's Law was unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the State Constitution (see NY Const art I, § 6). Upon due notice, the Attorney General intervened to defend the constitutionality of the law.

         The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of BPCA and held that Jimmy Nolan's Law was unconstitutional as applied (see In re World Trade Center Lower Manhattan Disaster Site Litig., 66 F.Supp.3d 466');">66 F.Supp.3d 466 [SD NY 2014]). As a threshold matter, the court recognized our "traditional rule that 'municipalities and other local governmental corporate entities and their officers lack capacity to mount constitutional challenges to acts of the State and State legislation'" (id. at 471, quoting City of New York v State of New York, 86 N.Y.2d 286, 289 [1995]). Nevertheless, the court cited a line of cases stating that "a 'particularized inquiry is necessary to determine whether - for the specific purpose at issue - the public benefit corporation should be treated like the State'" (id., quoting Clark-Fitzpatrick, Inc. v Long Island R.R. Co., 70 N.Y.2d 382 [1987]) and concluded that "BPCA is an entity independent of the State and has capacity to challenge the constitutionality of the Legislature's acts" (id. at 473). On the merits, the court found the law unconstitutional on the grounds that it was not passed in response to "exceptional" circumstances or a "serious injustice" (id. at 476, citing Gallewski v H. Hentz & Co., 301 NY 164 [1950]).

         Plaintiffs appealed to the Second Circuit. After discerning an "absence of authoritative guidance" on both the capacity issue and the proper standard of review in evaluating the constitutionality of claim-revival statutes (846 F.3d at 69), the Second Circuit certified the questions set out above.

         II.

         The first question essentially asks us to decide whether our general rule - that State entities lack capacity to challenge the constitutionality of a State statute - is any less applicable to public benefit corporations than it is to other types of governmental entities, such as municipalities. We hold that it is not, and that no "particularized inquiry" is necessary to determine whether public benefit corporations should be treated like the State for purposes of capacity.

         A.

         Capacity "concerns a litigant's power to appear and bring its grievance before the court" (Community Bd. 7 of Manhattan v Schaffer, 84 N.Y.2d 148, 155 [1994]). Entities created by legislative enactment, such as the BPCA, "have neither an inherent nor a common-law right to sue" (id. at 155-56). "Rather, their right to sue, if it exists at all, must be derived from the relevant enabling legislation or some other concrete statutory predicate" (id. at 156). Capacity should not be confused with standing, which relates to whether a party has suffered an "injury in fact" conferring a "concrete interest in prosecuting the action" (Society of Plastics Indus., Inc. v County of Suffolk, 77 N.Y.2d 761, 772-73 [1991]), and which "go[es] to the jurisdiction of the court" (City of New York, 86 N.Y.2d at 292). Capacity, unlike standing, does not concern the injury a party suffered, but whether the legislature invested that party with authority to seek relief in court. As such, capacity is a question of legislative intent and substantive State law.

         Generally, "municipalities and other local governmental corporate entities and their officers lack capacity to mount constitutional challenges to acts of the State and State legislation" (id. at 289). During the more than 80 years predating our City of New York decision, our courts characterized this prohibition somewhat inconsistently, referring to it, at various times (and sometimes simultaneously), as a lack of capacity (see Albany County v Hooker, 204 NY 1 [1912]), a lack of standing (see Village of Herkimer v Axelrod, 58 N.Y.2d 1069 [1983]; Black River Regulating Dist. v Adirondack League Club, 307 NY 475, 489 [1954]; Matter of Town of Moreau, 142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864 [3d Dept 1988]; City of Buffalo v State Bd. of Equalization & Assessment, 26 A.D.2d 213');">26 A.D.2d 213');">26 A.D.2d 213');">26 A.D.2d 213 [3d Dept 1966]) or a substantive determination that the State acts complained of were not unconstitutional at all (see Matter of County of Cayuga v McHugh, 4 N.Y.2d 609');">4 N.Y.2d 609, 616 [1958]; Black River, 307 NY at 489-90; Brown v State Comm'n of Correction, 104 A.D.2d 238');">104 A.D.2d 238 [3d Dept 1984]; City of Utica v Oneida County, 187 Misc. 960, 965-66 [Sup Ct, Oneida Cty, 1946], appeal dismissed 70 N.Y.S.2d 582');">70 N.Y.S.2d 582 [4th Dept 1947]). However, in City of New York (86 N.Y.2d 286), we definitively stated the rule in terms of capacity, as opposed to standing or substantive constitutional law. It has remained a capacity rule ever since (see County of Chemung v Shah, 28 N.Y.3d 244, 262 [2016]; County of Nassau v State, 100 A.D.3d 1052 [3d Dept 2012], lv denied 20 N.Y.2d 109');">20 N.Y.2d 1092');">20 N.Y.2d 109');">20 N.Y.2d 1092 [2013]; New York Blue Line Council, Inc. v Adirondack Park Agency, 86 A.D.3d 756');">86 A.D.3d 756, 758-59 [3d Dept 2011]; lv denied sub nom. Clinton County Towns of Broadalbin v Adirondack Park Agency, 18 N.Y.3d 806');">18 N.Y.3d 806 [2013]; Gulotta v State, 228 A.D.2d 555');">228 A.D.2d 555');">228 A.D.2d 555');">228 A.D.2d 555 [2d Dept 1996], appeal dismissed 88 N.Y.2d 1053');">88 N.Y.2d 1053 [1996], lv denied 89 N.Y.2d 811');">89 N.Y.2d 811 [1997]). [2] In City of New York, we rejected claims by the City of New York, Board of Education of the City, Mayor and Chancellor of the City School District that the State's statutory scheme for funding public education denied school children their constitutional rights under the Education Article of the State Constitution, the Equal Protection Clauses of the federal and State Constitutions and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (see City of New York, 86 N.Y.2d at 289). We observed that "municipal corporate bodies... are merely subdivisions of the State, created by the State for the convenient carrying out of the State's governmental powers and responsibilities as agents" and held that the municipal plaintiffs therefore lacked capacity to bring their claims (id. at 289-90).

         Our capacity rule reflects a self-evident proposition about legislative intent: the "manifest improbability" (id. at 293) that the legislature would breathe constitutional rights into a public entity and then equip it with authority to police State legislation on the basis of those rights. It also reflects sound principles of judicial restraint, "the extreme reluctance of courts to intrude in the political relationships between the Legislature, the State and its governmental subdivisions" (id. at 296). "[T]he Legislature, within constitutional limitations, may by legislative fiat diminish, modify or recall any power delegated" to its political subdivisions (Matter of County of Cayuga v McHugh, 4 N.Y.2d 609, 614-15 [1958]). "[T]he entire subject being one of governmental and public policy, ... the wrong, if any, created and existing by the acts of the legislature, must be corrected by the legislature, or by an action where the people, as distinguished from a municipal corporate body, are before the court" (City of New York, 86 N.Y.2d at 294, quoting Hooker, 204 NY at 18-19). Hence, with few exceptions, this capacity bar closes the courthouse doors to internal political disputes between the State and its subdivisions.

         The capacity rule is not absolute. A political subdivision with "express statutory authorization" to bring a constitutional challenge would not be found wanting in capacity (id. at 291; accord Hooker, 204 NY at 9), though a generic grant of authority to "sue or be sued" will be insufficient (City of New York, 86 N.Y.2d at 293). [3] Even in the absence of explicit authority, the assertion of some constitutional rights may, by their nature, present special circumstances to which the general rule must yield (see id. at 291-92). To date, we have identified a limited number of situations presenting such special circumstances, such as where a public entity is "vested with an entitlement to a specific fund by a statute" and the challenged statute adversely affects its interest in the fund (Town of Moreau v Saratoga County, 142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864');">142 A.D.2d 864 [3d Dept 1988]; accord City of New York, 86 N.Y.2d at 291-92; County of Rensselaer v Regan, 173 A.D.2d 37');">173 A.D.2d 37');">173 A.D.2d 37');">173 A.D.2d 37 [3d Dept 1991], affd 80 N.Y.2d 988');">80 N.Y.2d 988 [1992]), where a State statute impinges on a municipality's home rule powers under the State Constitution (see Town of Black Brook v State, 41 N.Y.2d 486');">41 N.Y.2d 486 [1977]), or where a public entity asserts that if it is obliged to comply with a statute it "will by that very compliance be forced to violate a constitutional proscription" (City of New York, 86 N.Y.2d at 292, quoting Jeter v Ellenville Central School Dist., 41 N.Y.2d 283, 287 [1977]). [4]

         We stress that the exceptions we have recognized to date are narrow. Under the general rule, we have barred public entities from challenging a wide variety of State actions, such as, e.g., the allocation of State funds amongst various localities (see City of New York, 86 N.Y.2d 286; Hooker, 204 NY 1), the modification of a village-operated hospital's operating certificate (see Village of Herkimer, 58 N.Y.2d 1069');">58 N.Y.2d 1069), the closure of a local jail by the State (see Matter of County of Cayuga, 4 N.Y.2d at 616), special exemptions from local real estate tax assessments (see City of Buffalo, 26 A.D.2d 213');">26 A.D.2d 213');">26 A.D.2d 213');">26 A.D.2d 213), laws mandating that counties make certain expenditures (see Gulotta, 228 A.D.2d 555), State land use regulations (see New York Blue Line Council, 86 A.D.3d at 758-59) and State laws requiring electronic voting systems to be installed at polling places in lieu of lever-operated machines (see County of Nassau, 100 A.D.3d 1052');">100 A.D.3d 1052');">100 A.D.3d 1052');">100 A.D.3d 1052).

         B.

         BPCA contends that public benefit corporations like itself are not fully governmental in nature. Therefore, BPCA argues, a court must conduct a "particularized inquiry" (John Grace & Co. v State Univ. Constr. Fund, 44 N.Y.2d 84, 88 [1978]) to determine whether a particular public benefit corporation should be treated like the State before the capacity rule can be applied. For the reasons that follow, we disagree.

         There are three types of public corporations: municipal corporations, district corporations and public benefit corporations (see General Construction Law § 65[b]). A public benefit corporation is "a corporation organized to construct or operate a public improvement wholly or partly within the state, the profits from which inure to the benefit of this or other states, or to the people thereof" (id. § 66[4]). Devised in the early 20th century as "a new vehicle for funding public works projects" that "insulate[d] the State from the burden of long-term debt" (Schulz v State of New York, 84 N.Y.2d 231, 244 [1994]), public benefit corporations are able to issue debt for which the State itself is not liable (see NY Const, art X, § 5). In addition, "[a]lthough created by the State and subject to dissolution by the State, these public corporations are independent and autonomous, deliberately designed to be able to function with a freedom and flexibility not permitted to an ordinary State board, department or commission" (Matter of Plumbing, Heating, Piping & A.C. Contrs. Assn. v New York State Thruway Auth., 5 N.Y.2d 420, 423 [1959]). We have therefore understood the primary utility of public benefit corporations as twofold: to "protect the State from liability" and to "enable public projects to be carried on free from restrictions otherwise applicable" (id. at 423). In this context, we have sometimes described public benefit corporations as "enjoying an existence separate and apart from the State, its agencies and political subdivisions" (Schulz, 84 N.Y.2d at 246 n 4 [collecting cases]).

         These properties, however, do not bring public benefit corporations outside of the scope of our capacity rule. It is true that much of our analysis in City of New York rested on the "historical fact" that municipalities are "mere[] subdivisions" having no "right to contest the actions of their principal or creator" (City of New York, 86 N.Y.2d at 289-91). However, our capacity rule is not a stilted axiom governing the position of the parts to the whole, or the relationship between the State as principal and its subdivisions as agents. Rather, as discussed above, it is nothing more than a commonsense presumption of legislative intent, informed by practical concerns about judicial overreach. The features that arguably render public benefit corporations something more than mere subdivisions, namely, the separation of "their administrative and fiscal functions from the State" (Collins v Manhattan & Bronx Surface Tr. Operating Auth., 62 N.Y.2d 361, 367 [1984]), do not diminish the considerations we have already mentioned that support this rule.

         BPCA cites to a line of cases from this Court rejecting a per se rule that public benefit corporations are identified with the State. In those cases, we held that "[t]he mere fact that" a public benefit corporation "is an instrumentality of the State, and as such, engages in operations which are fundamentally governmental in nature does not inflexibly mandate a conclusion that it is the State or one of its agencies... Instead, a particularized inquiry into the nature of the instrumentality and the statute claimed to be applicable to it is required" (John Grace & Co., Inc., 44 N.Y.2d at 88). Under the particular circumstances presented in those cases, we held that a public benefit corporation would be treated like the State for purposes of immunity from punitive damages (see Clark-Fitzpatrick, Inc., 70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382');">70 N.Y.2d 382), but not for purposes of contract bidding requirements under the State Finance Law (see Matter of Plumbing, Heating, Piping & A.C. Contrs. Assn., 5 N.Y.2d 420), sovereign immunity (Matter of Dormitory Auth. of State of N.Y. (Span Elec. Co.), 18 N.Y.2d 114');">18 N.Y.2d 114 [1966]), statutes providing for equitable relief to certain public contractors (see John Grace & Co. Inc., 44 N.Y.2d 84');">44 N.Y.2d 84');">44 N.Y.2d 84');">44 N.Y.2d 84');">44 N.Y.2d 84');">44 N.Y.2d 84');">44 N.Y.2d 84');">44 N.Y.2d 84) or a provision of the Penal Law punishing the submission of false instruments to the State (see People v Miller, 70 N.Y.2d 903 [1987]).

         However, applying this line of cases here would strip them of their context. The issue in each of these cases was whether a statute or common law rule defining the State's rights or responsibilities vis-á-vis private parties could be extended to a public benefit corporation. Given the primary function of a public benefit corporation "to resemble in many respects a private business corporation... as a means of expanding government operations into areas generally carried on by private enterprise" (Collins, 62 N.Y.2d at 368, 371 [internal quotations omitted]), we understood that a public benefit corporation's outward-facing relations with private parties - such as employees, customers and other business counterparts - would not necessarily be subject to the same laws that might apply when one does business with the government. Hence, in most of these cases, our overriding aim was to give maximum effect to the legislature's intent; we closely analyzed the public benefit corporation's enabling act, or the statute claimed to be applicable to it, in order to determine whether the corporation was intended to assume the guise of a private person in its legal relations with the general public (see Clark-Fitzpatrick, Inc., 70 N.Y.2d at 386-88; John Grace & Co., Inc., 44 N.Y.2d at 89; Matter of Dormitory Auth., 18 N.Y.2d at 117-18; Matter of Plumbing, Heating, Piping & A.C. Contrs. Assn., 5 N.Y.2d at 423-24). As for Miller, we were specifically concerned that the statute at issue, if made applicable to statements given to public benefit corporations, could impose criminal penalties without "fair warning" to the public (70 N.Y.2d at 907, citing People v Nelson, 69 N.Y.2d 302');">69 N.Y.2d 302 [1987]). None of the foregoing considerations apply where, as here, a court is called upon to evaluate a public benefit corporation's inward-facing relations with other State bodies. [5]

         C.

         The parties dispute the significance of two particular cases for our decision today. Plaintiffs and the Attorney General contend that this case falls within our ruling in Black River Regulating Dist. v Adirondack League Club (307 NY 475), where we held that the plaintiff, a river regulating district, could not maintain an action seeking a declaration that an act of the legislature was unconstitutional. By contrast, BPCA argues that our holding in Patterson v Carey (41 N.Y.2d 714');">41 N.Y.2d 714');">41 N.Y.2d 714');">41 N.Y.2d 714 [1977]) implicitly recognized that public corporations, under some circumstances, had capacity to bring such actions.

         We agree with the plaintiffs and the Attorney General that our holding in Black River precludes BPCA's proposed particularized inquiry approach. In that case, the Black River Regulating District (the District), a public corporation, sought a declaration that the Stokes Act (L 1950, ch 803), which prohibited "any river regulating board" from constructing certain reservoirs, was unconstitutional (Black River, 307 NY at 483-85). We rejected the District's attempted challenge. We observed that the District's "only purpose, " to construct reservoirs, was "a State purpose" and the District therefore had "no special character different from that of the State" (id. at 489). We also noted that the powers of the District to carry out these State purposes "are within the State's absolute discretion" to alter, impair or destroy (id. at 487). "[P]olitical power conferred by the Legislature, " we explained, "confers no vested right against the government itself.... [T]he power conferred by the Legislature is akin to that of a public trust [and may] be exercised not for the benefit or at the will of the trustee but for the common good" (id. at 488).

         The District also argued that it could sue in order to vindicate the rights of its bondholders, whose bonds, it claimed, would be impaired if the Stokes Act were not struck down (see Black River Regulating Dist. v. Adirondack League Club, 282 AD 161, 168-70 [4th Dept 1953], revd 307 NY 475). We rejected this contention; the mere fact that the District could issue certificates of indebtedness, we held, "does not confer upon [the District] an independent status by which they have standing... to test the validity of the Stokes Act" (Black River, 307 NY at 489).

         The precise holding in Black River, as we phrased it at the time, was that the plaintiffs lacked "standing" (or "status") to seek a declaration that the Stokes Act was unconstitutional (id. at 489-90). [6] However, it is clear that there was no real issue of "standing" in that case; the defendant was a private landowner subject to a condemnation proceeding by the District, a proceeding that would have been unlawful unless the District obtained the declaration it sought that the Stokes Act was unconstitutional (see Black River Regulating Dist. v Adirondack League Club, 201 Misc. 808, 811 [Sup Ct, Jefferson County 1952], revd 282 AD 161, revd 307 NY 475). Rather, in holding that the District did not have "status" to sue (Black River, 307 NY at 490), the Court was contemplating what we now recognize as capacity rather than standing (see City of New York, 86 N.Y.2d at 291, citing Black River, 307 NY 475).

         We find unpersuasive BPCA's attempt to distinguish Black River. BPCA argues that the District was only established as a "public corporation, " not a "public benefit corporation." The Special Term in Black River described the District's enabling statute as follows:

"Section 431 provides that bodies corporate may be created 'to construct, maintain and operate reservoirs within such districts, subject to the provisions of this act, for the purpose of regulating the flow of streams, when required by the public welfare, including public health and safety. Such river regulating districts are declared to be public corporations and shall have perpetual existence and the power to acquire and hold such real estate and other property as may be necessary, to sue and be sued, to incur debts, liabilities and obligations, to exercise the right of eminent domain and of assessment and taxation, to issue bonds and other evidences of indebtedness and to do all acts and exercise all powers authorized by and subject to the provisions of this article. Such powers shall be exercised by and in the name of the board of the district'"

(Black River, 201 Misc. at 813). Therefore, it is clear that the District, in substance, if not in form, was a public benefit corporation (see General Construction Law § 66[4]; see also N. Elec. Power Co., L.P. v Hudson River-Black River Regulating Dist., 122 A.D.3d 1185, 1186 [3d Dept 2014] [describing the Black River Regulating District as a "public benefit corporation"]). We note that the District would not qualify as either a municipal corporation or a district corporation (see General Construction Law § 66[2], [3]), the only other types of public corporations (see id. § 65[b]).

         BPCA argues that, even if Black River involved a public benefit corporation, our analysis was consistent with BPCA's proposed "particularized inquiry" test. According to this argument, the Court conducted such a particularized inquiry when it specifically identified the District's purposes "to construct reservoirs" as "a State purpose" (307 NY at 489). Although the District lacked power to sue in that particular case, BPCA argues that this does not necessarily foreclose challenges by other public benefit corporations with different purposes and under different circumstances. We do not read Black River so narrowly. There was nothing special about reservoir construction that compelled us to rule as we did; rather, it was enough that the District's raison d'etre was to carry out its activities "for the common good" (id. at 488). BPCA's attempt to harmonize its approach with Black River fails because our description of the District's purposes in that case would apply with equal force to any other public benefit corporation, for the "true beneficiary" of any New York public benefit corporation is the State of New York and its people (Matter of New York Post Corp. v Moses, 10 N.Y.2d 199, 204 [1961]).

         BPCA's reliance on Patterson (41 N.Y.2d 714');">41 N.Y.2d 714');">41 N.Y.2d 714');">41 N.Y.2d 714) is misplaced. In that case, we considered an action by the members of the Board of the Jones Beach State Parkway Authority and the institutional trustee for the Authority's bondholders for a judgment declaring a State statute unconstitutional. However, as relevant here, we said only that "[w]e do agree with the Special Term... that the governmental plaintiffs, as well as the institutional representative of the bondholders, have sufficient standing to maintain this action" (id. at 719 n *). The Special Term's ruling, in turn, suggests that the issue in Patterson (unlike in Black River) was standing as traditionally defined, rather than capacity (see Patterson v Carey, 83 Misc.2d 372, 376 [Sup Ct, Albany County 1975] ["The individual plaintiffs as members of the Authority have the requisite standing to obtain a declaratory judgment... There can be no doubt that plaintiffs have a 'personal stake in the outcome' of this litigation"] [citing Board of Educ. v ...


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