For more than half a decade, West Harlem business owner Nick Sprayregen has been battling the combined forces of Columbia University and New York's Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the controversial state agency empowered to bypass zoning laws and seize private property via eminent domain. At issue is Columbia's desire to build a massive new research campus in the same Harlem neighborhood where four of Sprayregen's family-owned Tuck-It-Away Storage businesses operate. Despite the fact that three of those four businesses sit on the periphery of Columbia's planned development, the university has demanded a blank slate on which to build, something that state officials have been all too happy to deliver by wielding their power to seize any holdout property. In fact, the ESDC secretly colluded with Columbia in order to create the most favorable conditions for triggering a property seizure.
Sprayregen's long battle reached an end earlier today when the Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal. Here's what he told me via email:
My family is profoundly disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear our case. This is truly a dark day for all Americans who care about the sanctity of private property rights. It is my hope that the loss by my family and the West Harlem community to the greed of Columbia University shall be looked upon as a clarion call to the citizens of our country that what has transpired here cannot be allowed to occur in other places. Americans must stand together and demand louder and more forcefully than ever that we be reunited with the basic civil right of true ownership of our homes and businesses. Until then, no one should feel safe from the collusion of unethical politicians and their favored private beneficiaries. Take it from me – I know first-hand.