Property Rights

George Will on New York's Eminent Domain Abuse

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George Will had a great column in yesterday's Washington Post detailing some of New York's ugliest cases of eminent domain abuse. Here's something that won't surprise any readers of Reason: Bruce Ratner's notorious Atlantic Yards project is right there at the top of the list:

The Atlantic Yards site, where 10 subway lines and one railway line converge, is the center of the bustling Prospect Heights neighborhood of mostly small businesses and middle-class residences. Its energy and gentrification are reasons why 22 acres of this area—the World Trade Center site is only 16 acres—are coveted by Bruce Ratner, a politically connected developer collaborating with the avaricious city and state governments.

To seize the acres for Ratner's use, government must claim that the area—which is desirable because it is vibrant—is "blighted." The cognitive dissonance would embarrass Ratner and his collaborating politicians, had their cupidity not extinguished their sense of the absurd.

Last month, Jacob Sullum explained how New York's controversial Empire State Development Corporation uses "blight" as a pretext to seize property. And in October, I explained why the state's highest court should have put a stop to Ratner's land grab.