Columbia Gets a Lesson in Property Rights

 

The Wall Street Journal 

Columbia Gets a Lesson in Property Rights                                                                                               The university tried to invoke eminent domain to seize land.

By Julia Vitullo-Martin          January 1, 2010  11:13 PM

 

New York

Columbia University is one of New York's largest landowners, and perhaps the one with the most to gain from the state's power to seize private property. But in a surprise ruling in early December, a state court struck down the city's attempt to take private land in West Harlem and give it to the university. Now that case is becoming an important beachhead in the fight over eminent domain.....

...Nick Sprayregen, a 47-year-old businessman, says no. He owns Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage, which is located in a brick building inside the footprint of Columbia's project. The business was started by his father in 1980, and he intends to pass it along to his children. So he joined a lawsuit to keep his land. He claims that taking his property would violate the state's constitution....

...State Supreme Court Justice James Catterson seems to agree with Mr. Sprayregen [...]. In ruling against Columbia on Dec. 3, he wrote that the use of eminent domain "to benefit a private elite education institution is violative of the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution, of the New York Constitution, and the 'first principles of the social contract.'"...

...State Sen. Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat and chairman of the committee on corporations, authorities and commissions, doesn't want to leave it to the courts. He held one public meeting on Judge Catterson's ruling before Christmas and is planning a second this coming week. He also fired off a letter to Democratic Gov. David A. Paterson asking him not to appeal Judge Catterson's ruling, and to impose a "statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain" until the state legislature can pass legislation that specifies how the power can be used...

 

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Publication date: 
Friday, January 1, 2010 - 23:13