Photo by Brayden Law on

Hess’s triangle, also known as the “Triangle of Spite,” is a small plot of land in New York City.

In order to enlarge the streets and create new subway lines in 1910, the city condemned and destroyed close to 300 structures.

For his five-story apartment building, the Voorhis, David Hess fought the city to keep it. Years of resistance to eminent domain legislation were met with eventual forced forfeiture of his land.

By 1914, all that was left of Hess’ property was a 500 square-inch concrete triangle. He was asked to surrender the tiny piece of concrete so that it may be used as a part of the public sidewalk as if his loss weren’t horrible enough already.

Hess rejected the proposal out of spite. He had the triangle tiled in mosaic tiles with the inscription “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Devoted For Public Purposes” on July 27, 1922.

Although passersby frequently step on the triangular mosaic, it acts as a continual reminder that Hess was not an easy target.

Hess’s Triangle, about the size of a full pizza slice, is lying on the ground outside a tobacco store on Christopher and 7th Avenue. Village Cigars bought the triangle in 1938 for $1,000. The triangle is located at the intersection of Seventh Avenue South, Christopher Street, and Waverly Place in Manhattan. It is only about 500 square inches in size and is now mostly covered by a nearby building.

The story behind Hess’s triangle dates back to the late 1910s when New York City decided to extend Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street through the area.

As a result, the city acquired several plots of land through eminent domain.

However, there was one property owner, David Hess, who refused to sell his triangular-shaped plot of land to the city.

The city went ahead with the construction project anyway, leaving a small triangular piece of land behind.

The plot was too small to build anything on, but Hess still had the legal rights to it.

In an act of revenge, Hess decided to take advantage of his legal rights and had the triangle paved with cement.

He then added a mosaic that read “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated for Public Purposes.”

The triangle became a symbol of Hess’s defiance and remained as a reminder of the dispute between Hess and the city for decades.

Today, the triangle is mostly covered by the building adjacent to it, but the mosaic still remains visible on the sidewalk, serving as a quirky piece of New York City history.

Now’s a great time to review:

How to Ensure Your Family Property Always Stays in the Family Trust

Another method of transferring property is to put it into a trust.  If you put it in an irrevocable trust that names your children as beneficiaries, it will no longer be a part of your estate when you die, so your estate will not pay any estate taxes on the transfer. The house will also not be subject to Medicaid estate recovery.

The downside is that once the house is in the irrevocable trust, it cannot be taken out again. Although it can be sold, the proceeds must remain in the trust. Similar to making a gift, if you apply for Medicaid within five years of transferring the house, you may be subject to a Medicaid penalty period.

Figuring out the best way to pass property to your children will depend on your individual circumstances. Talk to an elder law attorney in your area to decide what method will work best for your family.



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