A round-up of eminent domain abuse all over New York.
Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, opened last month. Developer Bruce Ratner, who built the stadium and promises to erect affordable housing nearby, relied on eminent domain to acquire and raze 53 private properties. Officials declared the 22-acre neighborhood blighted in 2006 even though only one property—a publicly-owned rail yard—actually fit that description. According to Christina Walsh of the economic freedom litigation firm Institute for Justice:
“This was one of the most outrageous abuses of eminent domain in recent history—all for broken promises and an ugly arena that nobody wanted... Nobody will forget how Mayor Bloomberg, [Borough President] Marty Markowitz and their developer friends destroyed a much-loved piece of Brooklyn."
Last week, New York City Council members approved a redevelopment plan for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, which was bulldozed in 1967. Some 1,852 mostly-minority families were forcibly removed from their homes. Former resident Tito Delgado told the Observer:
“I was 15 when we were all evicted. We lived in a community that was poor, working class, and it was a mixture. It was real working class, the real lower east side. In my building, it was thirty units, we had 14 different ethnic groups and nationalities and that was reflective of the whole neighborhood. That was what was destroyed. It was more than housing. It destroyed a whole community of interaction of people and cultures. There was Irish kids that spoke Spanish. We danced to black music. They danced to Salsa. It’s what the Lower East Side really was and I think that’s why so many people are attracted to it but that all seems to be going now.”
The seven-acre site, which is at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, has sat largely vacant for over 40 years—argued over by an array of community groups and officials with competing visions for redevelopment. The new plan calls for 1,000 apartments—half of them “affordable” (though there is some question about just how affordable they will be)—commercial space, a hotel, a park, and more to be determined.
In August, Brookhaven officials selected Tritec Real Estate Company to redevelop 50 “blighted” acres around the Ronkonkoma rail station that neither the town nor the developer owns. Among the 48 privately-owned properties are eight homes, a gym, and auto-repair businesses as well as commercial and industrial properties. Officials envision mixed-use development including new residential space, restaurants, and parking.
In September, Brookhaven officials also requested bids from developers for 30 acres of land adjacent to the Stony Brook train station owned by multiple private parties and Stony Brook University (which is public), the New York State Department of Transportation and the Long Island Railroad. Via Three Village Patch, Brookhaven Planning Commissioner Tullio Bertolio said, “I can with great certainty indicate that not only will eminent domain not be necessary but that it is also not appropriate, warranted or required in this project.” But will it be authorized, as a last resort?
Disclosure: I am a former Institute for Justice employee.