Basketball Boondoggle

Eminent domain in Brooklyn


Last October, New York's highest court heard oral arguments in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation. At issue was the state's use of eminent domain to seize private property on behalf of Bruce Ratner, a real estate tycoon and owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, who intends to build a 22-acre "urban utopia" in central Brooklyn. The development will boast office towers, a hotel, and a new taxpayer-subsidized basketball stadium for his Nets.

Ratner isn't planning to build a bridge, a road, or any other public project that fits the traditional constitutional justification for the forcible taking of private property. He wants to build a basketball arena, sell tickets to the games, and make a tidy profit. Since New York is one of just seven states that failed to pass any new laws protecting property rights after the Supreme Court's notorious 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which allowed governments to take private property simply to promote economic development, Brooklyn residents will have to rely on the state courts to put a stop to the project.