The New Academic Freedom

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The Gotham Gazette has a good, link-filled roundup of three huge private-to-private eminent domain transfers being readied in New York City, including a bulldozing frenzy being cooked up by that notable slumlord, Columbia University.

An 18-acre complex would stretch from West 125th Street to West 133rd Street between 12th Avenue and Broadway, and would include biotech research facilities, a building for its art school, student and faculty housing, and administrative buildings. […]

But the land is not the city's to give. For the city to even consider Columbia's request, private property owners must be removed from the picture. Columbia says it hopes to negotiate with the holdouts to find a mutually acceptable resolution. Failing that, it wants the state to use eminent domain to transfer control of these properties.

For some of the area's landowners, the talk of eminent domain has poisoned the talks about Columbia's expansion, eliminating the possibility for compromise.

"They say 'deal with us now or deal with the state later,'" said [Anne] Whitman, who also sits on Community Board Nine. "It's like having a gun to your head."

You mean a revered and powerful liberal institution in New York is leaning on a too-willing government to forcibly kick the Little Guy to the curb? Shocker.

NEXT: Saner Than Thou

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  1. Unreal. The only reconciliation we have is that people are beginning to stand up and say no way, bub, this is as far as you go. The libertarianism attitude for these people has to start somewhere, and it might as well be on their front porch.

  2. It amazes me that this sort of stuff is proliferating at such an accelerated pace since Kelo, and yet there is so little public outcry. I’ve been watching this Rivera Beach thing in utter horror. The people trying to justify their actions (primarily the shifty Mayor)can scarcely keep a straight face when challenged on how it benefits “these people” to lose their homes for high price condos and a yacht basin. The only place I see regular discussion of P2P ED abuse is here! And to be fair, the comments are rarely as numerous or animated as those regarding the jack-assery of one beltway boob or another!

    There, that ought to get a response. I really enjoy your (H&R bloggers in gen)comments and am interested particularly in your perspective(s) on ED abuse.

  3. Are you against eminent domain for clearly public use, like a public school? Would you oppose a public university using eminent domain to expand? Then why not for a private school, which at least isn’t using taxpayer money?

  4. My objection is to the use of the government to relieve individuals of their private property for the purpose of “granting” it to another private concern whose intended use of the land is some how more “desirable”… Public use is IMO roads, infrastructure, defense, etc… ALL instances of which still bound to public scrutiny as to having met some specific criteria or metric for both necessity and appropriate compensation. Not malls, planned communities, or other PRIVATE pursuits that benefit an elite few entirely or disproportionally. Else, how does Mayor X differ from Robert Mugabe mugging the property of white African land owners for redistribution to black African constituents for political capital?

  5. if, “It amazes me that this sort of stuff is proliferating at such an accelerated pace since Kelo, and yet there is so little public outcry.”

    It’s not proliferating at an accelerated pace. You’re just hearing more about it, because the court case, and the political campaign that accompanied it, put eminent domain on the media’s radar.

  6. Whatever side of this argument you’re on, the fact the developers can start the negotiations with “You’ve already lost your property, now let’s discuss price…” has to have a certain impact on the process.

  7. The businesses around Columbia need to come up with a slogan as catchy as Philly’s “Neigbors Against McPenntrification” (who just have to deal with responsible open-market gentrification, not ED)… maybe a protest hootenanny could rewrite Woodie Guthrie’s “Roll on, Columbia” lyrics to some effect, especially given a deeper irony for the “private property” verse (redacted from my elementary school’s song book, I would note) in “This Land”.

    Anyone know if the “Dinosaur Barbeque” mentioned in the Gotham Gazette link is an offshoot of the Syracuse Dinosaur BBQ? They did an admirable job rehabbing a turn-of-the-century railroad depot in Rochester. The web seems to suggest it it. I’d take their existence in this neighborhood as a signal of deep funkiness and gentrification working on it’s own timeline.

  8. You people should be ashamed. Where is your “common purpose, your sense of community”?

    Individualism is fine and all, but “the key to the nation’s success is striking a balance between individual and collective responsibility.”

    Those “individuals” need not stand in the way of progress that will benefit more.

  9. Are you against eminent domain for clearly public use, like a public school?

    It should be allowable in general (it’s a power granted in the Constitution), but any excercise of it should be treated with great suspicion.

    Would you oppose a public university using eminent domain to expand? Then why not for a private school, which at least isn’t using taxpayer money?

    Would you mind it terribly if I, your next-door neighbor, got you booted out of your home so I could have a bigger garage? I’m not using taxpayer money, after all.

  10. i’m mostly surprised no one has ever taken a shot at a developer or a land-grabber. this is property, after all, something that’s very near and dear to everyone’s hearts.

  11. dhex

    There was a case in S Carolina (might have been NC) where a guy took a couple of shots at State Hwy Dept employees over a taking and that was for a highway project. I think you’ll find it’s more common than you think. Probably because the cases tend to stay local; the national media doesn’t pick them up and hype them.

  12. Syracuse Dinosaur BBQ? They did an admirable job rehabbing a turn-of-the-century railroad depot in Rochester.

    Holy cow – that place in Rochester used to be a fairly cool night/dance club. My last trip to downtown Rochester (my home town), about 5 years ago, was a sad reminder of what a dump it’s become.

  13. RE: Rochester, I meant to add, “It’s nice to see some business there rather than it lying empty.”

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