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May 17, 2007

At eminent domain discussion, principled planning (vs. Atlantic Yards) and elusive blight

Atlantic Yards Report

When and how should the power of eminent domain be used? How can equitable use of eminent domain be assured? Those were the topics at a panel discussion last Thursday at the Brooklyn Public Library’s central library, and Atlantic Yards did not come off well in comparison to more "thoughtful" exercises of eminent domain. (Scroll to the end for the money quote.)

Judd Schechtman, an urban planner and environmental attorney:

“It’s not something we want to exclude from the toolbox of methods that we have in order to enhance economic development and grow the city. But the current use is not, we would say, as judicious [as it should be]. Only when absolutely necessary and with adequate public input.” He didn't mention Atlantic Yards in that summation, but, arguably, the implication was there.

Tom Angotti, Professor in the Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs and Planning:

Angotti... called New York City “possibly one of the national centers of eminent domain abuse,” citing Atlantic Yards as “the premier example” but also the city’s efforts to redevelop Willets Point in Queens.
“I have people come to me all the time. They say, ‘You’re an urban planner. What’s the definition of blight? What do you have to do to say an area’s blighted? There is no science, there is no standards. It’s whatever the agency decides is blighted,” Angotti said.

Lisa Bova-Hiatt, deputy chief in charge of condemnation in the Tax and Bankruptcy Litigation Division of the New York City Law Department:

“I’d like to believe that the city of New York uses eminent domain thoughtfully.”

She pointed out that “in a dense city, the assembly of parcels suitable for redevelopment, for whatever purpose, is frequently impossible without the use of eminent domain.”

When the Q&A began, the obvious question for Bova-Hiatt was this: “Do you think that the thoughtful planning that the city has practiced in Melrose Commons, etc., has been applied to the Atlantic Yards case?”

Her response: “Well, the city of New York is not the condemning authority with Atlantic Yards. And because it’s pending litigation, I don’t want to offer my opinion, because that might not necessarily be the opinion of the city of New York. But, from what I’ve heard, there was a difference between what happened in Melrose Commons and what happened in Atlantic Yards.”


NoLandGrab: We know we're always saying that Atlantic Yards is the "posterchild" for this and that... but Atlantic Yards is really one of the prime examples in our nation of how eminent domain can make a big difference in the lives of those who have political connections.

Posted by lumi at May 17, 2007 7:48 AM