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September 18, 2008

At state Senate hearing, calls for reform of state eminent domain laws, notably blight

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder (he must have an identical twin, at least) attended yesterday's State Senate hearing on eminent domain, and filed his usual comprehensive report.

Opponents of governmental plans to use eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, the Columbia University expansion, and Willets Point redevelopment were at center stage yesterday at a State Senate hearing on reforming state eminent domain laws, where they and others pointed out that, in the years following the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo v. New London Supreme Court decision, New York has been among the few states that has made no effort to tighten eminent domain laws either through legislative or judicial action.

“Nowhere else in the country is eminent domain used to benefit private interests so rampantly and so brazenly,” declared Christina Walsh, a representative of the Institute for Justice, the libertarian legal organization that has led the fight nationally against eminent domain.

Harlem State Senator Bill Perkins, an opponent of the Columbia expansion who convened the hearing, called for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain in the state and a stall on the Columbia plan. He said he supported a special commission to reform eminent domain laws--a recommendation made by a New York State Bar Association task force to study changes in the 32-year-old Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL).

Among the recommendations: formally define and limit the definition of “blight,” which is undefined; give those threatened by eminent domain a chance to challenge determinations in court by calling witnesses; and even to eliminate the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment.

Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, drawing on the Atlantic Yards example, suggested that only locally elected legislative bodies, not the unelected agencies like the Empire State Development Corporation, approve the use of eminent domain.

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Posted by eric at September 18, 2008 9:13 AM