Friday, March 14, 2008

The Domain of the Sun

In this morning's NY Sun, the paper focuses on the new governor's position on eminent domain; and sees problems ahead for developers: "If David Paterson as governor displays the opposition to eminent domain that he showed as a state senator, several high-profile development projects in New York City could be derailed or delayed, including a Columbia University expansion, the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and the transformation of Willets Point in Queens."

Of course the Sun has taken a special interest in the issue and its speculation here could be seen to some extent as wishful thinking-particularly for Atlantic Yards where the development is already a way down the road. The Columbia and the Willets Point situations may, however, be something else altogether,

With the CU expansion, the key state decision revolves around the ESDC determination of whether the area is in fact "blighted." The process, though, has been tainted; with the consultant hired by the agency also being paid as the chief environmental advisor for the university. Given this, it appears to us that the position of our client-Nick Sprayregen and Tuck-it-Away-has been inordinately strengthened. As we flesh out the possibilities of doing a land swap, the university may be put under considerable more pressure to make a deal and absolve ESDC of the responsibility for condemnation.

With this possibility in mind, CU needs to become extremely proactive-don't forget that the one main CU political critic is State Senator Bill Perkins, the man who replaced David Paterson when he was elevated to the Lt. Governor's position. At the same time, however, Bill Lynch is also close to the governor; and we know the role that Lynch played in the recently concluded land use battle. All in all, an interesting set of circumstances-with uncertainty rising for CU.

In the case of Willets Point, a development that really is in its infancy, we have a situation where the new governor, should he decide to flex, can really play a positive role in protecting a great number of small businesses from eviction; and we would envision a more creative solution than any that the city would craft,-a city that believes in condemning and removal above all else.

In any case, the issue of ED will put David Paterson's previously articulated beliefs squarely front and center. We'll see to what extent they hold as the pressures of power force re-evaluation and accommodation.