February 15, 2008
Avella Eyes Mayoral Race
The NY Sun
By Alicia Colon
Tony Avella, the self described "Conservative Democrat," sits down with Alicia Colon to talk about how eminent domain and overdevelopment are subverting the democratic process in NY City:
Mr. Avella caught my attention when I read his comments on two issues that I believe New Yorkers should be more concerned about: eminent domain and the cable franchise battle. I initiated the meeting with him because he appears to be the maverick of the City Council, a group that I have little respect for as a whole.
This City Council approved the plan for the 17-acre expansion of Columbia University in Harlem. Columbia University representatives told The New York Sun that they aim to reach a negotiated settlement with the remaining reluctant landowners, but have made it clear they would invoke the state’s power of eminent domain to condemn the property if no agreement is reached. Mr. Avella was one of five Council members who voted against the project, and said that the use of eminent domain would jeopardize all New York property owners. Mr. Avella told me, “Nobody’s home or business is safe anymore.”
Neighborhood opponents of the plan have long said it would harm Harlem’s character and displace longtime residents. Of course it will, but the city’s poorer neighborhoods have been on death row city since the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. the City of New London that gross violation of property rights is permissible. A private developer can swoop into blighted areas, and as long as the city determines that a project has a public purpose, such as generating higher tax revenue, individual property owners will be at its mercy.
It’s happening in nearly all the boroughs, but no one seems to be paying much attention. Mr. Avella, however, views this subversion of the Constitution as “a disgrace.” He noted what’s happening in Willets Point in the Bronx and the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn as examples. Let’s not forget how the New York Times used eminent domain to relocate to a new Times Square building on Eighth Avenue. Ten existing buildings were condemned by the Empire State Development Corporation under a mandate to acquire and rebuild a blighted Times Square that is no longer blighted. The ESDC leased it to the New York Times for a price below market value and, in addition, gave the newspaper tax breaks. How that benefits the New York taxpayer is beyond me.
Posted by lumi at February 15, 2008 5:59 AM