Monday, September 22, 2008

Sun: eminent domain law reform may be possible (but don't hold your breath)

An article in today's New York Sun, headlined Victorious Senate Democrats Could Target Eminent Domain, takes off from the hearing held by State Sen. Bill Perkins last week:
A Democratic takeover of the Senate in November could result in changes to the state's eminent domain law, possibly complicating several of the city's largest development projects.

State Senator Bill Perkins, a Democrat of Harlem, is calling for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain and said he is willing to push for more restrictions on the use of eminent domain, provided the political climate is right in Albany.

"I don't know of too many other issues where you have such diverse and pervasive outrage," he said yesterday in an interview.


Changes possible?

As the article details, however, neither Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver nor Gov. David Paterson have expressed support for changes (though Paterson did in 2005, as a State Senator).

Moreover, though the article mentions Atlantic Yards, the Columbia University expansion, and redevelopment at Willets Point, unmentioned is that any new legislation might grandfather in projects already under way.

So I'd bet that a temporary commission, as proposed by the New York State Bar Association, is a more likely first step than new legislation.

Bloomberg's statement

A spokesman for Mayor Mike Bloomberg called eminent domain "an essential mechanism" used only "as a last resort," which is, of course, questionable, given that the threat of eminent domain has led property owners to sell to Columbia and Forest City Ratner, for example.

The role of the Sun

The scrappy, shoestring Sun, which has been published for six years, is facing a deadline for new investors and might close this month, reports the Times. The Sun's free-market and conservative editorial leanings can influence the subjects covered and sometimes the tone; hence the Sun's interest in eminent domain.

Then again, the Sun sometimes covers issues no other daily newspaper addresses; contrast today's article, which, though overoptimistic, covers the bases, with the only other daily coverage of the hearing, by Daily News columnist Errol Louis.

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