Using Eminent Domain to Screw the Little Guy in Spring Valley, New York


Probably what will cheer you up this morning is a story about eminent domain abuse paid for by you. If so, you're in luck, gentle reader.  

Officials in Spring Valley, New York, which is about 20 miles north of Manhattan, have been seizing properties in the village's 15-block downtown area for the past decade and flipping them to private developers. Federal community development block grants helped pay for the acquisitions.

From The Journal News:

Mercy Anim can't bring herself to drive down Main Street, where she had cared for young children at her day-care center before being displaced by a condo complex as part of the village's urban renewal project.

She never found a spot to reopen Little Angels. The condo builder offered her pre-manufactured trailers to care for infants to 12-year-olds. She chose to close in 2009.

"My heart was so broken," Anim said. "I've never driven on the street since I closed. They took away from me the children and their parents. I want to cry. I don't go to Spring Valley no more."

Village leaders, two of whom are now under federal indictment for extortion and wire fraud in an unrelated matter, demolished Anim's business and several others in 2009. What they haven't done is pay Anim for improvements made to the property. They've offered $96,000. Anim's appraiser says she should be getting north of $1 million.

In the meantime, the developers, aided further by a variety of state and local subsidies, built senior housing as well as expensive condominiums designed to meet kosher standards.

Back to The Journal News:

[The developers] are accused of steering the condos to ultra-Orthodox Jews and discouraging non-religious people from buying units.

The NAACP filed a complaint after people tried to buy a condo, saying they were given more expensive prices and the runaround.

The village could be liable to repay HUD up to $1 million for not reporting the sale of property to the developer, according to a HUD audit.

Former officials say everything is above board; they knew going in that the condos would go to Orthodox Jews. But that may violate federal fair-housing rules all the same. HUD is investigating.

That's little consolation to Anim: "I had an investment in that building," Anim said. "They put up condos to benefit certain people. I can't believe this can happen in America. Eminent domain is not supposed to be used that way."