Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Politics of Eminent Domain

In today's NY Post there is a guest editorial from Bart Dridden, one of the property owners in Port Chester who had is land "transferred" to another property holder, under the exercise of the village's right of eminent domain. The property was taken after the original owner had turned down a ridiculously low offer from the village's designated developer. As Dridden writes, "The very next day, Port Chester condemned our property."

Adding insult to injury the favored developer proceeded to build a retail space for a drugstore, the same plan that Dridden and his partners had been advancing-to the point that the project even had the village's approval.. As Dridden writes, however, the courts are extremely hesitant to intervene after the Supreme Court's Kelo decision. This is precisely why a political solution is needed.

No, we don't believe that the right eminent domain should be abrogated. We do think that a great deal more fairness and transparency needs to be brought to the process, particularly when the development is in the hands of a private entity. There needs to be a process also that protects the business interests of property owners and tenants who are threatened with expulsion. To compensate a business for the value of its property does not address the fact that this is inadequate compensation for the value of the business!

In addition, there needs to be a greater sensitivity to creating conditions where local property owners can participate in the new development scheme; shared equity is not a bad idea along with co-development rights. With this in mind we can see some different ways to deal with the plans being put forward on Willets Point and West Harlem.

In the situation in Manahatan, where we have been retained to represent Nick Sprayregen, it is clear to us that the city is going to modify the Columbia plan to include some affordable housing component. This then becomes the city's plan and as such there is no reason why Sprayregen and some of the other owners can't be partners in the redevelopment process. Which is exactly what we are going to seek from the elected officials.