Property Rights

Will New York's High Court Stand Up Against Eminent Domain Abuse?

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Nicholas Confessore of The New York Times has a great report on yesterday's oral arguments in the New York eminent domain case Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation. As Confessore notes, the lawyer representing New York's Empire State Development Corporation faced some fierce questioning over the agency's desire to seize private property on behalf of the wealthy private developer Bruce Ratner:

Wednesday's one-hour hearing featured sharp questioning from several judges over what limits the state faced when it sought to condemn private property, some of it suggesting that the judges believed that the rights of the owners had not received enough consideration from state officials.

The lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation, Philip E. Karmel, also faced sharp questioning from the court's chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, that went to the heart of a key legal and political dispute surrounding Atlantic Yards: Whether it is a private real estate project seeking the patina of a public purpose to justify eminent domain, or a state-sponsored economic development project that happens to include a major real estate venture….

In another line of questioning, Judge Robert S. Smith, in a tone that suggested skepticism, asked Mr. Karmel if there were any limits on the state's ability to take private land, so long as there was a public benefit. Mr. Karmel said that under current law and precedent, there was not.

Judge Smith also questioned Mr. Karmel about the state's definition of blight.

"Suppose I am a developer and I want to buy on an area that is half blighted and half not," the judge asked. "They can condemn the whole thing, even if only half of it is blighted?"

The answer, Mr. Karmel said, was yes.

Read the whole thing here. For more on why New York's high court should nullify this eminent domain abuse, see here and here.

On a related note, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn observes that the Times apparently didn't see this particular story as "fit to print":

What is not reasonable, and is the fault of the editors, not Confessore, is that the story did not make it into the print edition of the paper. Something is rotten at the Times.

Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that The New York Times currently operates out of a Times Square skyscraper built in partnership with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner that sits atop land seized via eminent domain?

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  1. Trying to divine anything from oral arguments is a mug’s game.

    1. Agreed. Too many times have I gotten excited over the grilling a couple of ‘skeptical’ judges gave to the State’s Attorney, only to discover that they did it to make sure we all understand that they were willing to ask the “hard questions” but in the end, felt that the state’s case was justified.

  2. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that The New York Times currently operates out of a Times Square skyscraper built in partnership with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner that sits atop land seized via eminent domain?

    Sounds like someone threw an extra slice of bananas in their conspiracy theory bowl this morning.

    1. All The News That’s Printed To Fit.

  3. Hardly a conspiracy to compare two situations that are exactly the same.

    Seems the laws dealing with eminent domain are blighted……

    1. I say we should increase eminent domain abuse, just ramp it to absurdity. Let’s lump in intellectual property along with the physical; let’s see the State operating as Microsoft’s proxy stroll right on in and seize blighted intellectual property. Give the progressives the progress they keep telling themselves they deserve.

      1. I say we should increase eminent domain abuse, just ramp it to absurdity

        Wish granted!

    2. The laws themselves are blighted…hmmmm

      I’m gonna start my own eminent domain case for em, then once i move in i re-write them into something more useful. Something to block the commerce clause maybe.

      I’m just sayin, i could use that realestate in the law books more productively.

  4. Sounds like someone threw an extra slice of bananas in their conspiracy theory bowl this morning.

    Hardly a conspiracy to compare two situations that are exactly the same.

    Seems the laws dealing with eminent domain are blighted……

    Agreed. The Times just wishes the whole eminent domain issue went away. When your hand has been caught in the till, it’s tough to write about pilfering.

    Here’s hoping the NY’s highest court terminates the Atlantic Yards project with extreme prejudice. Then the Russian billionaire who’s tentatively buying one of the worst franchises in the NBA* will back out, leaving Ratner licking his self inflicted wounds.

    That would induce max schadenfreude in me.

    * Couldn’t win with Chuck Daly as head coach. Need I present any more evidence than that?

  5. What’s great about this issue is that the folks who are usually the most apt for seizing of private property for the common good are the ones having their property seized.

    I think we need to seize the land from 80th to 96th streets, between West End Ave and Columbus Ave to build a combination children’s hospital, animal shelter wind farm, and free petting zoo.

    1. See, it’s just your sort of intellectual property blight that should be seized.

      -sincerely, Unthinking Statist.

  6. I think the coalition that ruled in Kelo is still in effect unless Sotomayer rules differently than Souter would have.

  7. Oh, New York’s high court, my bad!

  8. I think we need to seize the land from 80th to 96th streets, between West End Ave and Columbus Ave to build a combination children’s hospital, animal shelter wind farm, and free petting zoo.

    No, a new stadium for the Giants. They’d love that. Besides, they need to get the Giants out of Jersey if they’re going to call them the “New York Giants”.

  9. To: Don’t Develop Dont’t Destroy Brooklyn’s “What is not reasonable, and is the fault of the editors, not Confessore, is that the story did not make it into the print edition of the paper. Something is rotten at the Times.”

    Something is always rotten at the liberal Times.

  10. Will New York’s High Court Stand Up Against Eminent Domain Abuse?

    Probably not.

  11. Does anyone know when this case may be decided?

  12. I wonder how the NYT would react if Rupert Murdoch managed to convince Gov. Patterson the NYT was “blighted” and should be “condemmed” and turned over to Murdoch?

    I’m just saying….

  13. Does anyone know when this case may be decided?

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