Thursday, December 10, 2009

Perking Up on Eminent Domain

In an excellent letter to Governor Paterson, State Senator Bill Perkins, responding to the recent appellate court decision on Columbia, calls on the governor to institute a state-wide moratorium on the use of eminent domain: "I write with a great sense of urgency in respectfully calling upon you to forego an appeal of last week’s decision in Kaur v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, and to order a statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain within the State of New York pending legislative action."

And Perkins does so because of what the court describes as the collusive activities of the state and Columbia in that expansion effort: "The court found ESDC violated both state and federal due process clauses in an effort to prevent affected property owners from obtaining information, and that ESDC’s finding of blight was “bereft of facts which established the neighborhood in question was blighted.” Furthermore, ESDC’s determination that the project even has a public use, benefit or civic purpose is wholly unsupported by the record. The court also noted the glaring conflict of interest, which reeks of bad faith, that existed as a result of ESDC and Columbia using the exact same consultant to review the project and determine blight."

The senator reminds Paterson of his original opposition to the state of New York law on eminent domain-and calls for badly needed reform: "You may recall that back in 2005 you and I stood on the steps of City Hall together with several members of the City Council to protest the United States Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London which affirmed the use of eminent domain for private development that entails a so-called “public use.” That decision contained language encouraging states to review their own eminent domain statutes. Some states have done just that. It is now New York’s turn."

The Politicker picks up on this Perkins plea and reminds its readers: "Mr. Perkins has established himself as one of few loud voices in the Legislature to protest eminent domain. Other representatives from Harlem were far more supportive of eminent domain, particularly for the university's expansion into the warehouse-filled neighborhood, and few others have tried to make eminent domain an issue."

It will be very interesting to see if the governor responds to Perkins on this issue-but we can envision that the senator will be taking an active role on the shenanigans at Willets Point-where collusion and possibly illegal activity has characterized the city's effort to use eminent domain to spur development. We also predict that Perkins will not be alone.