The NY Sun previews today's expected City Planning Commission vote to approve the Columbia expansion plan. The paper focuses heavily on the eminent domain issues and quotes Norman Siegal, Nick Sprayregen's attorney on this thorny issue: "They should find out whether eminent domain will be an aspect of this," the lawyer, Norman Siegel, said. "But they're reluctant to enter into the fray about the merits of eminent domain both on the Columbia plan and in general. So they're punting to the state."
Of course, the use of eminent domain would rely on whether or not the land in question is "blighted," a definition that has in many cases been used quite expansively. As the Sun points out; "Critics of eminent domain say the state's condemnation of property — no matter how small — in a dynamic neighborhood for a private development would be a heavy-handed abuse of the state's power."
What makes this issue even more problematic is the fact that the Empire State Development Corporation, the agency charged with the blight determination, is using the same consultant-AKRF-as Columbia. A court has already ruled that this joint exercise is quite a conflict, one that raises questions about any determination that ESDC makes.
All of which makes the proposed land swap between the university and Nick that much more compelling. There's always the possibility that the ED issue gets entangled in the conflict question, and the whole process gets delayed by years. Here's the Sun's take on the swap: "One of the commercial landowners, Tuck-It-Away storage, has proposed a land swap with Columbia that would give the university control over the 400,000 square feet of property it wants from the company, a lobbyist for the storage company, Richard Lipsky, said. It is unclear whether Columbia is interested or whether the other storage company with land in the area, Hudson North American, or the two gas station owners would go along.
A spokeswoman for Columbia did not return a call for comment." It's time for that call CU.