Friday, May 02, 2008

On eminent domain, Paterson channels.... Gargano?

The New York Observer reports Gov. David Paterson's comments to WFAN about Atlantic Yards:
“The Brooklyn arena is going forward,” he said. “If there is continuing delay or legal action against the use of eminent domain, which is when the government condemns property and then exercises it, which I didn’t think there was very much at the Atlantic Yards ... I still think the Nets will wind up in Brooklyn,” he said.

While it is developer Forest City Ratner's intention to move forward with the arena, it can't do so until it has financing, and that likely has to wait until lawsuits are cleared. And eminent domain has been threatened but not exercised.

So Paterson's past-tense statement, "which I didn’t think there was very much at the Atlantic Yards," sounds curiously like former Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano's odd statement to Metro nearly two years ago: "we didn’t really have to use eminent domain because there were friendly condemnations done."

[Update: A reader says Paterson is technically correct, that the state began the eminent domain process when the project was approved in 2006. However, the process is hardly complete, and property title has not changed, given that court cases have slowed the project. So it's not quite accurate to "there was [not] very much." More accurate would be that "there hasn't been very much," or other phrasing that implied the process is not complete.]

It's true that Forest City Ratner owns or controls some 85% of the land it needs. Whether the remaining quantity of land is "very much" or not is a matter of debate, though the rights of a minority are not diminished by how many share their stance.

But at least we know where Paterson, who in 2005 notably opposed eminent domain but remained quiet since, stands. And, of course, he made the common error of calling Atlantic Yards a place.

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