Taking Property

Bush's landgrab -- and the New York Times'

(Page 2 of 2)

"As far as I can remember, this has always been our family's breadbasket," Rubin says. "I think it's atrocious that for the sake of a private corporation like The New York Times, somebody has the right to take it away from us." He might understand if the block were being condemned for a city road or hospital. "But no one has explained to me why they have to do this so The New York Times can have a big new skyscraper here."

The Orbachs and two other groups of property owners are challenging the condemnation under both the U.S. Constitution and the New York state constitution. Their chances are considered slim. New York has a long tradition of using eminent domain aggressively (remember Robert Moses?), and in this case the landowners are arrayed against the combined forces of City Hall, a leading developer, and the country's most powerful newspaper.

It all looks like a sordid tale of cronyism, of misuse of power, of cozy backroom money-grubbing -- a more pressing threat to American business than outright criminality. Even Kazakhstan would blush at such practices. Some crusading liberal newspaper in New York really ought to run an editorial. Or at least a column.

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