Sunday, December 13, 2009

Crain's, unsurprisingly, calls for Columbia eminent domain decision to be reversed

From a Crain's New York Business editorial supporting the Columbia University expansion, headlined Law should be eminently clear: The public benefit issue especially needs rethinking (also at NLG):
In the Atlantic Yards case, the Court of Appeals ruled that long-established precedents allowed the use of eminent domain to aid a private development, that the public benefit required of such a project should be regarded in a broad way, and, most important, that the courts should not second-guess a state agency's decision to declare an area blighted, except in the most extreme cases.

The majority in the Manhattan appellate court seemed to ignore the direction of the state's highest court. The majority in the 3-2 decision disparaged the public benefit of the Columbia project and clearly second-guessed the blight finding in a way that would seem to directly contravene the instructions of the higher court.
Crain's is right that the two rulings seem in conflict--though it would be possible for the Court of Appeals to uphold the Columbia decision on narrow grounds.

What Crain's doesn't grapple with is the bad faith found by the court in the Columbia case, or its finding that underutilization--a factor in the dubious blight finding for Atlantic Yards, as well--was deemed illegitimate.

Apparently Crain's thinks there's no need to reform eminent domain, especially the definition of blight, in New York State.

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