Monday, December 07, 2009

Manhattan Institute's Malanga: two basic reforms needed in state eminent domain laws

In a New York Post op-ed today headlined When can't New York take your land, Steven Malanga. senior editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, points out that New York lags behind nearly all other states in addressing eminent domain, and suggests some hardly-radical reforms:
* A stricter definition of "blight" land so that officials can't declare even a thriving neighborhood to be devastated just so they can seize property in it.

* A ban on government taking property from one private citizen to transfer to another private citizen for redevelopment merely to enhance the value of the land.
Looking more closely

Let me add some details, since Malanga barely mentioned Atlantic Yards.

Surely the designation of cracked sidewalks as blight (right, in Brooklyn) by consultants for the Empire State Development Corporation in both the Columbia and Atlantic Yards cases deserves a rethink.

And a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation was asked in the Atlantic Yards oral argument October 14, “is it the law of New York that if I own a house in an area that the government thinks could be improved, a perfectly nice house, it’s a clean house, nothing particularly wrong with the area, but it could be better, more vibrant, more dynamic businesses, is that enough for the government to [condemn and seize] the house?”

His response: “Under New York State constitutional law, yes, it is."

The Manhattan Institute, which has a libertarian bent, is alarmed. So are others of a different philosophical bent, like state Senator Bill Perkins. The issue won't go away.

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