Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bloomberg's Land Grabs

What should be one of the most controversial aspects of Mayor Bloomberg's tenure is his cavalier use of eminent domain. But for whatever reason, there just isn't much resistance -- outside the Atlantic Yards project, that is -- for top-down development projects, whereas City Hall plays the role of private developer.

The threat of eminent domain now hangs over property-owners' heads in Prospect Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Willets Point, and upper Manhattan. On that latter score, the Neighborhood Retail Alliance's Richard Lipsky reports on the latest:
It now appears that the City Planning Commission, unless there is some last minute intervention, will certify Columbia University's land use application at its June 4th meeting. This precipitous move, coming as it does before there has been any meaningful negotiations between Columbia and the community, has already begun to spark controversy.

In strongly worded letters, both CB#9 and the West Harlem LDC (formed to negotiate with the university), asked Planning Chair Burden to put off certification because, in the words of Board Chair J. Reyes-Montblanc, "It will be a great disservice to the Community, the Administration and Columbia University to issue such certification and referral during the month of June. The consequences of such an inadvisable action by DCP are dangerously enormous and may even involve public disturbance, this is how serious the situation could be." (emphasis added)

The LDC gets it just right when it tells CPC's Burden that certification this Monday, "will offend the essence of the ULURP process which is designed to seek community comment and involvement." The action also exposes the sham nature of these negotiations, proceeding along the lines of first getting the approval and then tossing the community as meager bone when it's under no pressure to really accomodate the local needs.
To qualify for a legitimate eminent-domain taking under New York law, the targeted area must be blighted if the project is intended for something other than a "public" project. That the city appears willing to pretend northern Manhattan is blighted so as to usher Columbia's expansion along doesn't reveal much respect for the limited nature of eminent domain law. Lucky for Bloomberg that not too many New Yorkers value the principle of private property.

UPDATE: Lipsky's latest.


NoLandGrabber said...

Richard Lipsky supports Atlantic Yards because he's a paid consultant for Forest City Ratner.

Though I agree with the position of the Manhattanville property owners, it should be noted that Lipsky was hired by them as well.

tom said...
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tom said...


Useful info -- thanks. I've wondered how Mr. Lipsky can see these two projects so differently. If true, your addendum would seem to explain it.