The Power Of The Threat Of Eminent Domain

<p>In New York, eminent domain is not necessarily the direct work of the government, and often the threat of eminent domain is enough to clear the way for development. This editorial explains how.</p>
December 28, 2007, 10am PST | Nate Berg
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"In New York, eminent domain can be conducted by obscure agencies where accountability isn't transparent. Too few citizens understand Governor Spitzer's responsibility for the persisting political purchase Atlantic Yards has had on its peculiar life. Most know little about the Urban Development Corporation, doing business as the Empire State Development Corporation, which frequently operates through the creation of lesser-known subsidiaries."

"Most don't know that a private owner who covets the property of another can, outside the scrutiny of the public eye, start the condemnation process by writing a check to the self-funding government agency - to finance costs, including government staff salaries - so that agency will put together materials advancing the condemnation. In that vein, Columbia University, interested in acquiring a swath of West Harlem, wrote a $300,000 starter check to ESDC in 2004, years before any public hearings."

"Eminent domain is often preceded by the notion that someone partaking in the acquisition process sees 'blight.' And blight, if it is not readily in the imagining eyes of beholders, is something that those pursuing an eminent domain taking of property can create. They can do this by various means, including the "threat" of eminent domain."

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Published on Thursday, December 20, 2007 in The New York Sun
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