Eminent Domain Abuse in Brooklyn


As previously noted, today is the third anniversary of the Supreme Court's terrible Kelo decision, which upheld New London, Connecticut's use of eminent domain to seize private property on behalf of the Pfizer Corporation. Unfortunately, though perhaps fittingly, the Court today signaled its unwillingness to revisit the issue, refusing to hear the case of Goldstein v. Pataki, one of the first major eminent domain appeals since the Kelo ruling came down.

At issue in Goldstein is the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, New York, a 22-acre boondoggle centered on a new taxpayer-subsidized basketball stadium for the New Jersey (soon-to-be Brooklyn) Nets. All told, more than 40 business owners and tenants face losing their property to the real estate developer (and New Jersey Nets owner) Bruce Ratner, whose Forest City Ratner Companies is overseeing the project along with New York's quasi-public Empire State Development Corporation. As someone who just relocated from one of the thriving neighborhoods sitting in dangerous proximity to the proposed site, I'm here to tell you that the Atlantic Yards will be a catastrophe and a disgrace, ruining many more lives and livelihoods than this lawsuit could ever hope to reflect.

But all hope isn't lost. Matthew Brinckerhoff, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, has declared his intentions to take the fight to New York's state courts:

We are, of course, disappointed that the Court declined our request to hear this important case. This is not, however, a ruling on the merits of our claims. Our claims remain sound. New York State law, and the state constitution, prohibit the government from taking private homes and businesses simply because a powerful developer demands it. Yet, that is what has happened. Recent events have revealed that the public, and the Public Authorities Control Board were sold a bill of goods by Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation. We now know that Ratner's project will cost the public much more than it will ever receive.

Another interesting fact: Justice Samuel Alito noted that he would have granted review to the case. No other member of the Court shared their votes, nor is it common for them to do so when simply denying review. While this doesn't reveal how Justice Alito would have actually voted on the case, it does suggest that he's a potential ally in future property rights fights.