Purchase and Sale of State Lands

Several state agencies have the power to purchase and manage land on behalf of the People of the State of New York. For example, land might be purchased to add to the state forest preserve, a SUNY campus, or a state park.    Typically, the state acquires full ownership of the land in fee simple, although sometimes the state acquires lesser interests, such as fishing easements or conservation easements. In all cases, the land is obtained for the benefit of the public. The state agency will negotiate a land purchase agreement with a willing seller, and then refer the transaction to the Real Property Bureau for the examination and closing of the land title.  Real Property Bureau personnel prepare an abstract of title after a review of the county land records, including maps, deeds, mortgages, judgements, surrogates court records, and the county tax rolls.  Staff attorneys then review the title abstract, together with other title material; prepare the instruments necessary to clear title; and then close and acquire title in the name of the People of the State of New York.  The role of the attorney general regarding state land purchases is twofold: to facilitate the acquisition of land by state agencies for the benefit of the public, and to ensure that the People acquire good, clear title. 

If you would like to sell or donate a parcel of land, an easement, or other property interest to the state, please contact the state agency you believe might have an interest in your property.

The sale of state land is accomplished primarily through the Office of General Services (OGS).  Once state land is deemed no longer necessary for public use, OGS may sell it at a public auction pursuant to the state Public Lands Law.  The role of the attorney general is to approve the form of the conveyance of unappropriated state land (by letters patent) to the successful bidder. Although most state land sales are accomplished through OGS, the Department of Transportation has separate authority to sell state land formerly appropriated for highway use but abandoned by the state for that purpose. DOT may sell such land to the public pursuant to the state Highway Law.   The role of the attorney general is to approve the form of the conveyance of surplus highway land (by quitclaim deed) to the state’s purchaser.