Monday, December 19, 2005

Court of Appeals to Rule on ED

In week's NY Sun Julia Levy discusses a case involving the city's use of eminent domain to build its "Third Water Tunnel" project. No one involved is disputing the fact that the tunnel is definitely a "valid public purpose," but lawyers for the property owner contend that the amount of land being taken is "excessive."

The precedent being argued is whether the city can take more property than is actually needed for the public use project. Edison Properties, the owner in question, got a major boost when the Real Estate Board of New York filed an amicus brief with the court. As Steve Spinola, the Board's president wrote, "The taking of property by the government is an extreme measure that deprives the owner of significant rights even if 'just' compensation is paid...It is clear that the government should always accomplish its purposes using the least restrictive means, i.e., by taking the smallest possible quantum or interest in the affected property..."

Spinola's weighing in is also significant for the more global issues that ED raises. It is always helpful to have some powerful real estate interests in any potential ED coalition. As he underscores in his brief: "If the city is permitted to take excessive interests in property without due process, as it is here, the rights of property owners will be seriously jeopardized..."