Tag Archives: Empire State Development Corporation

Property Rights and Blight

Proceedings for state takeover of Brooklyn properties continue with developer Bruce Ratner closing on the future sight of the Nets new stadium .  George Will explains in his column:

The Atlantic Yards site, where 10 subway lines and one railway line converge, is the center of the bustling Prospect Heights neighborhood of mostly small businesses and middle-class residences. Its energy and gentrification are reasons why 22 acres of this area — the World Trade Center site is only 16 acres — are coveted by Bruce Ratner, a politically connected developer collaborating with the avaricious city and state governments.

To seize the acres for Ratner’s use, government must claim that the area — which is desirable because it is vibrant — is “blighted.” The cognitive dissonance would embarrass Ratner and his collaborating politicians, had their cupidity not extinguished their sense of the absurd.

The properties in question are half-million dollar Brooklyn condos. Rather than paying the necessary price to buy each property, Ratner has turned to the political process to carry out his business. Despite a few remaining residents who are attempting to keep their homes, it appears that Ratner, aided by the state, are gaining the necessary court approval to seize the properties.  The New York Observer reports:

The state has officially filed in court to acquire the property in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards mega-development in Brooklyn, home-to-be of the Nets. The acquisitions are for much of the 22-acre site, as the state’s development agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, is seeking to take title to the private property in the footprint and the city streets that currently run through it.

At present, the situation is grim for Prospect Heights homeowners, but simultaneously higher courts have an opportunity to uphold Fifth Amendment rights with this case.

Empire State of Mind

New York’s highest court recently decided two separate cases that centered around eminent domain abuse and the Fifth Amendment. In late November, the court allowed basketball tycoon Bruce Ratner to appropriate a good sized section of a Brooklyn, furthering his plan to move the New Jersey Nets franchise to a new arena. Last week, the intermediate appeals court stopped Columbia University’s attempt to gobble up much of the Manhattanville neighborhood north of Midtown. [Corrected 12/08.]

These cases highlight just how much of a mess eminent domain proceedings are in the wake of 2005’s U.S. Supreme Court decision Kelo v. City of New London. Supreme Court decisions are no stranger to controversy, but the outrage surrounding Kelo transcended party or ideology, and led to forty-three states adopting restrictions on their own eminent domain powers.

In the Brooklyn case, the issue is identical to Kelo. Bruce Ratner wants to tear down a significant portion of a vibrant neighborhood, and replace it with private economic developments including office towers, a shopping complex, and a basketball arena, which will likely be financed with a significant public subsidy.

Reason Magazine‘s Damon Root has an excellent analysis of the private property rights that Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation trampled over: Continue reading