Lesson on Limits of Eminent Domain at Columbia

New York Times

Lesson on Limits of Eminent Domain at Columbia

Published: January 19, 2010

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of officials in New London, Conn., to force the sale of private homes in a waterfront neighborhood to make way for a development project intended to improve the city’s tax base. The decision caused an uproar around the country, spurring 43 states to pass legislation limiting, to one degree or another, the use of eminent domain.
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

New York, however, was not among them. Some lawmakers tried to revise the state’s condemnation procedures in the wake of the Connecticut case, but their bills died because of strenuous opposition from the Bloomberg administration.

Now, however, attention is again being focused on whether New York has too much power to force the sale of private property for economic development. A recent appellate court decision barred a state agency from condemning businesses occupying land that Columbia University wants for its $6.3 billion expansion. Even if the strongly worded ruling is overturned, as several land-use lawyers expect, it is providing fodder for people who believe the existing system is unfair to property owners....

....State Senator Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat whose district includes the neighborhood where Columbia is seeking to build its new campus, peppered Empire State officials at the hearing with questions about their reliance on AKRF, which has played a prominent role in most of the city’s major development projects. Accusing the consultants of having a “particular agenda in mind,” Mr. Perkins said that “it just doesn’t look good.”...


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