Civil Liberties

"Eminent Domain as Central Planning"

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Bruce Ratner and his buddies in big government.

Writing in City Journal, Nicole Gelinas argues that New York's recent high-profile use of eminent domain on behalf of Columbia University and the Atlantic Yards stadium project in Brooklyn represent "government officials' belief that central planning is superior to free-market competition." A snippet:

To cure yourself of the notion that the government can do better than free markets in producing economic vitality, stroll around Atlantic Yards. You'll walk past three-story clapboard homes nestled next to elegantly corniced row houses—the supposedly blighted residences that the state plans to demolish. You'll see the Spalding Building, a stately sporting-goods-factory-turned-condo-building that, thanks to [Bruce] Ratner and his government allies, has been slated for demolition and now stands empty. You'll peer up at [Daniel] Goldstein's nearly empty apartment house, scheduled to be condemned and destroyed.

And you'll see how wrecking balls have already made the neighborhood gap-toothed. A vacant lot, for example, now sprawls where the historic Ward Bakery warehouse was, until recently, a candidate for private-sector reinvestment. Today, Prospect Heights finally shows what the state and city governments want everyone to see: decay. The decay, though, isn't the work of callous markets that left the neighborhood to perish. It's the work of a developer wielding state power to press property owners to sell their land "voluntarily." It's also the result of a half-decade's worth of government-created uncertainty, which stopped genuine private investment in its tracks.

For more on the Atlantic Yards boondoggle, see Reason's coverage here. For the Columbia University case, see here.