Eminent Domain

25 June 2010 by

Since the beginning of 2008 New York’s Columbia University has been in a battle over space and land. On Thursday New York’s high court has ruled in favor of Columbia University, allowing them to seize private property in order to build a satellite campus in Harlem. The private property which is now home to warehouses, gas stations, and garages was declared eminent domain by the city.

When a property is declared condemned by eminent domain allows the state to seize a citizen’s private property with monetary compensation but without the owners consent. The property then can be redistributed for the government’s use or to private third parties for redevelopment. According to the New York Times, the courts ruling was backed by a study done in 2003 that found “ample evidence of deterioration of the building stock in the study area.” A subsequent study by the state found a dearth of construction and “longstanding lack of investor interest in the neighborhood.”

In this case the third party being Columbia University, will be the benefactor in this ruling. According to the University, “The expansion of one of New York’s oldest educational institutions will enhance the vitality of both the university and its neighboring west Harlem community, while meeting the long-term needs of its residents.”

According to the New York Times, “One of the most contested issues was whether the area was blighted and in need of redevelopment, which would make it a candidate for eminent domain. The lower court had agreed with the property owners that there was ‘no evidence whatsoever that Manhattanville was blighted prior to Columbia gaining control over the vast majority of property therein.’”

The ruling was unanimous and overturns a previous ruling that prohibited the state from using eminent domain to acquire the property known as Manhattanville without the owners consent. In 2005 the United States Supreme Court ruled that individual states could prevent private property from being seized for redevelopment. 43 states have tightened their eminent domain laws in order to protect private property owners, however New York has not.

Among the businesses that are being seized and redeveloped is New York Self Storage owner Mr. Sprayregen, the owner of Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage. Four of his warehouses are being seized in order to complete the project, which will consist of 16 new buildings over the next decade. Mr. Sprayegen and his fellow business owners will have the opportunity to petition the courts for a high compensation if they believe that they are not being offered fair compensation.

Although eminent domain is a legal way to acquire property for the purpose of redevelopment to increase economic wealth and safety in certain areas, how do you feel about eminent domain and the government seizing private property without the owner’s permission?

SSF Team

SSF Team

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