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June 11, 2008

At post-Kelo conference, AY ironies amid support for eminent domain

Atlantic Yards Report

On the brink of a decision by the United States Supreme Court on whether or not to hear the appeal brought by the plaintiffs in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case Goldstein vs. Pataki, Norman Oder revisits Kelo vs. New London through the prism of a November, 2007 conference that weighed the impact of eminent domain on urban communities.

If, as the saying goes, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," then "the friend of my enemy is my enemy," which makes the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case--now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court--rather tainted, in the eyes of many who emphasize the importance of eminent domain to urban redevelopment.

Why? Not just because of the partial challenge to the Supreme Court's controversial 2005 Kelo v. New London eminent domain decision, but also the tangential involvement of and support from the libertarian Institute for Justice (IJ), which has a broader property rights agenda nationally that could hamstring local governments.

That was a major message from a November 9 conference at Princeton University titled Land and Power: The Impact of Eminent Domain in Urban Communities, hosted by Princeton's Policy Research Institute for the Region (PRIOR) and the Penn Institute for Urban Research. The audience included lawyers, planners, government officials, advocates, and analysts, with the panels generally tilted toward supporters of eminent domain who believe that smaller-scale reforms, rather than fundamental challenges, are needed.

The irony, however, is that property owners/leaseholders in Goldstein v. Pataki, the Atlantic Yards case, seek not to overturn Kelo, which libertarian opponents of eminent domain slammed, but to hold the Supreme Court to what may be a difficult-to-enforce doctrine, that eminent domain should proceed only after carefully formulated plans and when there are no questions that the transfer is a pretext to assist a private party.

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Posted by eric at June 11, 2008 8:14 AM