New York Court Upholds Use of Eminent Domain To Benefit Columbia University

We have another outrageous case involving the government using eminent domain to take property from one private citizen to give to another. This case comes from New York where the Court of Appeals has upheld the right of the Empire State Development Company to seize the Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage building in Manhattanville and give it to Columbia University. It is part of the troubling legacy of the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision.

While many (including myself) have denounced Kelo and this use of eminent domain, New York appears to be using the power with little hesitation given earlier cases. The New York courts have followed the lead of the Supreme Court in prior opinions. I previously testified in Congress against the Kelo decision and its claimed constitutional basis.

In this case, the government previously lost in its effort to use eminent domain based on a highly suspect “blight” allegation. Many heralded that decision, now overturned, as a victory for property owners.

Columbia University could not buy four warehouses and two gas stations so it used its clout with powerful local politicians to use eminent domain. It is part of a $6.3 billion project to develop 17 acres in Manhattanville. The vote of the Court of Appeals was unanimous.

What is troubling is the claim of “blight.” Often cities use blight as a justification for this extraordinary power. However, this case shows how any area can be simply deemed blighted to justify a land grab for powerful interests. It turns out that the ESDC hired a company to conduct the blight study that happened to be a contractor for Columbia.

The continued abuse of eminent domain in this fashion is the natural result of the Kelo decision. Ironically, that abuse by New London, Connecticut ultimately led to little benefit for the city when Pfizer pulled out. New York needs to pass a prohibition on the use of eminent domain to effectively transfer property from one private citizen or company or another.

Source: NY Times

19 thoughts on “New York Court Upholds Use of Eminent Domain To Benefit Columbia University”

  1. Anonymously Yours


    As Clinton asked in interrogatory’s to define extramarital affairs or maybe that was me, not sure right now, >b<but please define smart.


    green, chubby, and bald

  2. Blouise,

    Thank you very much.


    Bite me very much. 😀

  3. Blouise,

    As Clinton asked in interrogatory’s to define extramarital affairs or maybe that was me, not sure right now, but please define smart.

  4. Buddha Is Laughing

    These kinds of abuses will eventually lead to violence.

    Inequity always does.

    And there is nothing more inequitable than a two-tiered legal system.


    He may be green, he may be chubby, he may be bald but … he is one smart green, chubby, bald guy.

  5. James M.,

    On Mission Point in Michigan, just outside of Traverse city and along the Lake Michigan Coast line it was very common for fences or barriers to extend some thirty feet into the water or bay.

    There was a Michigan Case that drew a lot of fighting by the Van Andels, De Vos and Prince family that come to mind. Even though they had more money and in some cases better attorneys the Sct of MI was forced to do the right thing after the US Sct came out with its decision.

    I am pleased that Florida has a 3/5 vote requirement. Too many Orchards were being taken over by towns for builders and speculators.

  6. AY,

    It’s a great law, but as someone who grew up in Michigan and Florida, I’m a little appalled at the idea that people in other states are able to balkanize the beach by fencing off their own private parts of it. How common is that?

    BTW Florida has also enacted a prohibition on turning over eminent domain land to a private party without 3/5 of both state houses voting for it.

  7. These kinds of abuses will eventually lead to violence.

    Inequity always does.

    And there is nothing more inequitable than a two-tiered legal system.

  8. Jill,

    It called Business. I am still in shock by the Florida and Michigan Public Right to Access beaches. It still blows my mind.

  9. This is part of a pattern I call the class war of the powerful on the less powerful (or powerless). Assets of all types are being taken from the less powerful and redistributed to the most powerful. This is done both “lawfully” and unlawfully as in the story linked to below. In the meantime the “lesser people” as Alan Simpson calls us, cannot get unemployment insurance but the Congress can approve 30 billion more for a supplemental on the escalation of our troops in Afghanistan. These are not isolated incidents as they may first appear. They all show a govt. out of control, grabbing as many assets as it can and giving those assets to its real constituents-the very wealthiest of the ruling elite. This is not an isolated fluke, it is SOP, a fixed operating system of the govt.

    “New details have emerged on how the New York Federal Reserve under Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner helped orchestrate the “backdoor bailout” of major Wall Street firms through the insurance giant AIG. The Fed’s rescue of AIG helped secretly funnel nearly $70 billion dollars to sixteen big US and European banks. According to the New York Times, recently-disclosed documents show the government forced AIG to forfeit its right to sue several major banks, including Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, for any irregularities in the mortgage securities it had insured on their behalf. The documents also suggest regulators ignored advice from their own advisers to force banks to accept losses on the AIG deals instead of paying the banks in full. One regulator personally thanked Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein for his “patience” as the Fed worked to ensure Blankfein’s company would receive taxpayer money. In a November 2008 email to Blankfein, the regulator wrote: “Thanks for understanding.” The New York Times also reports the Treasury Department’s point man on the AIG bailout, Dan Jester, was himself a former Goldman executive who at the time still owned company stock.” from Democracy Now

  10. The City of Arlington, TX, colluded with George W. and his TX Rangers to condemn acres of land around the to-be-built Rangers stadium for parking lots. I know cuz I represented one of the condemnees. The land was undeveloped REO (i.e., land that had been foreclosed on), so the client didn’t object to the condemnation per se. Arlington first offered $200K for the land, but the client fought back and ultimately got $4M.

    George W. Bush who hates government isn’t above using government when it suits his purpose. What a hypocrite.

  11. And Michigan and Florida are going the other directions now. The owners of beach front property cannot put up barriers to prevent public access to the beaches.

    Florida, I am not surprised. Michigan, where a lot of people have multi million dollar mansions it does. They are usually the same ones involved in Politics of the Far Right Side.

  12. Look at the Poletown case in Michigan, it was bullshit then and it still is, btw its never been used for the purpose that it was taken for.

    Would a landowner have a claim against the State, city for Trespass to Title, Breach of Contract?

    Look at how they stole real property to build W’s legacy in Dallas/Park Cities for the Presidential Museum/Library. That is a fun one. I bet the entire number of books read by BushII could fit on a postage stamp. What a waste of space, yes his library too…

  13. [youtube=]

    Kelo v. New London (2005)

    Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Kennedy, J., filed a concurring opinion. O’Connor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Scalia and Thomas, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Comments are closed.