The (Forever?) Iron Triangle

Last week, opponents of the Bloomberg Administration’s plan to redevelop Willets Point found themselves cheering a move by the Mayor. The Administration withdrew its legal request to utilize eminent domain in the 12-acre Queens neighborhood.

In 2008, the area – which currently and historically has been used for automotive and industrial uses – was rezoned. Mayor Bloomberg’s vision was a mixed-use neighborhood with retail, residential, hotel and other uses. Adjacent to the new Mets ballpark, close to the subway and several highways, the vision for the neighborhood was quite grand. Continue reading

Eminent Domain Shocker: Columbia University Loses Its Bid; Vows to Appeal

Columbia Decision

In a very surprising decision late yesterday, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court voted 3-2 against Columbia University’s proposed condemnation as part of its proposal to expand its campus into the Manhattanville neighborhood.

The Court questioned the accuracy of the blight study.  The argument that the area was underutilized and therefore blighted was not convincing to the Court.

Additionally, the Court questioned the impartiality of the consultant hired to conduct the blight study.  The majority decision noted that the consultant hired by the Empire State Development Corporation was the same as the one hired by Columbia University.  Judge Catterson implied that there was a conflict of interest and the conclusions of the study were tainted. Continue reading

Officially Blighted: Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Atlantic Yards

The New York State Court of Appeals, in a 4-3 decision, ruled today in favor of Forest City Ratner and the proposed Atlantic Yards development.  While this decision is being widely reported, the reasoning behind the decision could benefit from some further scrutiny.

The decision (warning: PDF) was based on the public benefit gained from the removal of blight, not the public benefit of the proposed use itself.  Much of the discussions surrounding eminent domain in recent years (stemming mainly from the Kelo v. New London case) has not had to do with blight specifically, but rather the benefit to the public gained from economic development projects.  The Atlantic Yards decision, however, focuses on blight and whether or not the Empire State Development Corporation (“ESDC”) made its case that this area was blighted. Continue reading