Thursday, October 14, 2010

No Barriers to Condemnation in NY State

The city's effort to take small business property in East Harlem was ratified by the NY State Appellate Court yesterday-another example of both the city's disdain for small neighborhood retailers, as well as its contempt for property rights. In bringing the suit, The East Harlem Alliance of Responsible Merchants had challenged the city's eminent domain process, "Specifically, EHARM says it was unconstitutional for their properties to be included "solely for the purposes of enabling condemnation." State statute was broken when officials failed to restrict the occupancy of the proposed housing primarily to low-income households, the suit alleges. Additionally, the suit argues that approving the project before a developer was announced was unlawful. "It has to be for a true public benefit," Damon Bae of Fancy Cleaners said in reference to eminent domain. "This is not for a true public benefit."

While the court's ruling in NY State is unsurprising-considering the Court of Appeals decision to overturn an Appellate Court decision against Columbia and ESDC-Judge Catterson's concurring opinion underscores just how non-existent property rights are in this state: "In my view, the record amply demonstrates that the neighborhood in question is not blighted, that whatever blight exists is due to the actions of the City and/or is located far outside the project area, and that the justification of under-utilization is nothing but a canard to aid in the transfer of private property to a developer. Unfortunately for the rights of the citizens affected by the proposed condemnation, the recent rulings of the Court of Appeals in Matter of Goldstein v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp., 13 NY3d 511, 893 N.Y.S.2d 472, 921 N.E.2d 164 (2009) and Matter of Kaur v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp., 15 NY3d 235, —- N.E.2d —— (2010), have made plain that there is no longer any judicial oversight of eminent domain proceedings. Thus, I am compelled to concur with the majority." (emphasis added)

"No blight", "a canard;" but no matter! Demonstrating that there is no barrier in NY against any taking of property whatsoever-and the city and state can make up any old reason they want and have it ratified by the courts-which makes the appeal by West Harlem's Nick Sprayregen to the USSC all that more important. If the high court intervenes in the Sprayregen case-and does so in his favor, it would be a first step toward the restoration of due process, and the protection of property rights here. As of now, barriers to taking are nonexistent.