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June 20, 2007

A New Jersey decision on blight, and the echo for Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report examines the NJ State Supreme Court ruling that private property cannot be designated "blighted" just because it is underultilized, and compares the ruling, and the evolution of New Jersey's definition of "blight," to New York State's, and, primarily, the Atlantic Yards plan.

If you don't have the time to digest the entire NJ State court decision and the full briefs and transcripts of the Atlantic Yards legal cases, Norman Oder does a great job distilling the issue in this must-read article:

A unanimous decision June 13 by the New Jersey Supreme Court, which overruled a loose application of blight in an eminent domain case, doesn’t apply in New York, but it’s still instructive, since state courts often look to trends in other states.

Bottom line: were the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review transposed to New Jersey, the government would have a much tougher—though perhaps not impossible—task asserting blight.

However, the New York State Legislature and state courts, unlike those in many other states, have been slow to revise eminent domain laws in response to public concern. Blight remains a loosely defined and highly contested issue, as in the hearing May 3 regarding the challenge to the Atlantic Yards environmental impact statement.

A decision is pending in that case. Notably, one of the blight characteristics asserted in Brooklyn--that buildings are unproductive because they don’t fulfill 60% of allowable development rights--likely wouldn't pass muster in New Jersey.

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Posted by lumi at June 20, 2007 9:26 AM