Eminent Domain

In New York, Blight Is Whatever Officials Say It Is


Eminent domain abuse has reared its head in East Harlem. New York City officials plan to seize a family-owned dry cleaning business, raze the buildings, and hand the forcibly vacated land to a private developer.

City officials insist that the property is "blighted," the condition of severe disrepair required to trigger a taking under state eminent domain law. But as Damon Bae, whose parents opened Fancy Cleaners after immigrating from Korea in 1981, told the New York Daily News, "the only 'blight' was in the [city-owned] vacant lots the city allowed to sit empty" nearby. In other words, the local government created the very conditions it is now using as a pretext for seizing the property.

Unfortunately for the Baes and others like them, the U.S. Supreme Court rubber-stamped a similar land grab in 2005's Kelo v. City of New London decision.

New York's highest court—the Court of Appeals—did the same in 2009, when it ruled 6–1 to let the state seize property on behalf of a basketball arena and luxury apartment project in Brooklyn. In that case, state officials described the 22-acre project site as "blighted," thereby setting the stage for bulldozers to clear away homes and businesses. Their evidence for the claim? Such factors as "weeds," "graffiti," and "underutilization."

What's worse, the court basically admitted the whole thing was a sham. "It may be that the bar has now been set too low—that what will now pass as 'blight,' as that expression has come to be understood and used by political appointees to public corporations relying upon studies paid for by developers, should not be permitted to constitute a predicate for the invasion of property rights and the razing of homes and businesses," the majority said in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation. "But any such limitation upon the sovereign power of eminent domain as it has come to be defined in the urban renewal context is a matter for the Legislature, not the courts."

In his lone dissent, Judge Robert Smith blasted his colleagues for abdicating their judicial duty. "The right not to have one's property taken for other than public use is a constitutional right like others," he wrote. "It is hard to imagine any court saying that a decision about whether an utterance is constitutionally protected speech…is not primarily a judicial exercise."


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  1. You don’t own that – – – – – – – – –

    1. I thought it was “you didn’t build that”

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  2. The job of the judiciary is to justify the actions of the other branches. Checks and balances are a quaint idea made up by white slave owners who wouldn’t let women vote. It serves no purpose in this modern age.

  3. The biggest problem with the United States is that the branches of government are not carrying out their main roles: Protect this more perfect union and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

    The Courts: Protect individual rights from government, interpret the law, protect the Executive from Legislative overreach, protect the Judicial branch from Executive and Legislative overreach, protect the Legislative Branch from Executive overreach, protect the states from federal overreach, and protect the Constitution from government overreach.

    Congress: Protect the people’s rights to govern the USA, protect Americans from non-Americans, create the law, protect the Executive from Judicial overreach, protect the Judicial branch from Executive overreach, protect the Legislative Branch from Judicial and Executive overreach, protect the states from federal overreach, and protect the Constitution from government overreach.

    President: Protect individual rights from government, protect Americans from non-Americans, Enforce the law, protect the Executive from Legislative overreach, protect the Executive branch from Judicial and Legislative overreach, protect the Legislative Branch from Judicial overreach, protect the states from federal overreach, and protect the Constitution from government overreach.

    1. The founders recognized that the nature of government is to attract evil men who care only about their own power. They thought that the system of checks and balances would put power seekers at odds with one another and slow the growth of government. I guess it never dawned on them that the three branches would instead collude with one another to ignore the constitution and rubber stamp each others actions.

      1. They foresaw that. Its why we have a 2nd Amendment. And the little blurb from the Declaration of Independence:
        We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ? That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, ? That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

        1. The Declaration of Independence is not a legal document. In fact it is contradicted in the Constitution when Congress is given the power to suppress insurrection, and when it defines treason.

          1. You are absolutely correct that the Declaration of Independence is not a legal document for the founding of the United States. That would be the US Constitution.

            The Declaration of Independence is an American document that gives guidance and reasoning as to what caused the colonies to fight against tyranny. Its also lets us know that the Founders know that it might happen again and its okay to water that Tree of Liberty and start over with freedom in mind.

          2. If a tyrannical government ignores the constitution but then wants Americans to follow the law, at what point does that make the constitution non-binding?

            1. If a tyrannical government ignores the constitution but then wants Americans to follow the law, at what point does that make the constitution non-binding?

              I think that ship sailed over a hundred years ago.

              1. Maybe. Maybe not.

            2. #9th amendment

          3. That’s not a contradiction. Congress has the power to suppress insurrection, & the people have the power to insurrect. They’re each given the power to go at it vs. each other, so how is that a contradiction? You might as well say the rules of a game that allow any player to win are contradictory.

      2. The people, or rather the progressives, amended the constitution to make the senate into a second popularly elected house of representatives. By doing so they destroyed any national power the states may have had. A lot of states have added protections against eminent domain, if the senate represented the states I very much doubt the supreme court would have so blithely redefined “public use” or wouldn’t have found a way to revisit their egregious error.

  4. I am not sure how true this is, but I read that New York might declare tge area near Penn Station in Manhattan blighten.

    1. Madison Square Gardens is fugly and has to go.

  5. NYC voters have achieved the government they deserve, good and hard.

    1. What about the majority who don’t vote?

    2. What about the majority who don’t vote?

      1. They get double screwed.

        1. I’ve been getting double screwed around here a lot lately so I’m used to it.

  6. I always appreciate Steve Chapman’s foreign-policy takes. He is the sort of intelligent, principled libertarian voice which really adds credibility to this publication.

      1. in my defense, the comments @ chapman’s piece are so ridiculously Hihn-ified that maybe this is better left here.

        1. I’m dreadfully sorry I missed that article but this just caught my eye:

          The comment section here is worthless.

          From one of the newer socks who shows up day after day to post variations on that same.

          1. The comment section is the only reason I come here. The articles are only occasionally worth reading

            1. Hey Nardz, how about you fuck off and take all the rest of the idiots with you.

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  8. Columbia University finagled this as well: bought up what it could buy for a song and let it go to seed so they people who wouldn’t sell could be keloed out. It worked twenty years ago. Still working today.

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