We have successfully grown centimeter-sized layered RSrNiO 4 single crystals under high oxygen pressures of 120–150 bar by the floating zone technique. This enabled us to perform neutron scattering experiments where we observe close to quarter-integer magnetic peaks below ∼77K that are accompanied by steep upwards dispersing spin excitations. Within the high-frequency Ni–O bond stretching phonon dispersion, a softening at the propagation vector for a checkerboard modulation can be observed. We were able to simulate the magnetic excitation spectra using a model that includes two essential ingredients, namely checkerboard charge disproportionation and nano phase separation. The results thus suggest that charge disproportionation is preferred instead of a Jahn–Teller distortion even for this layered Ni 3 + system.