Since Kelo, that unfortunate Supreme Court decision that let states use eminent domain to seize private land to give it to private developers, 42 states enacted reforms to limit such abuse. New York is one of the eight states that haven’t. That brings us to this week’s unfortunate news from the Institute for Justice:
The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, today announced that it would uphold the decision of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to condemn privately owned homes and small businesses to make way for wealthy developer Bruce Ratner’s so-called “Atlantic Yards” development of 16 mammoth skyscrapers centered around a basketball arena.
Atlantic Yards residents and businesses fought the project, but the developers and their friends in government won in court:
… [T]he Court found the takings were for a “public use” because of the ESDC’s determination that the area to be condemned was “blighted”—a determination that was based on a study paid for by the would-be developer and not even initiated until years after the Atlantic Yards project was announced.
By calling the area “blighted,” the developers imply that if the city doesn’t take those people’s property, the area will just die. But there’s little evidence of that. Cities don’t need eminent domain to prosper. Anaheim, California, blossoms with economic activity. Developers built condos, stores, and restaurants -- all without using government force. Anaheim did it by allowing property owners more freedom, relaxing zoning rules, making it easier to obtain building permits. New York State should try that, instead of stealing private land from people.
If you own property in New York, Institute for Justice Attorney Dana Berliner says, watch out:
... The developer’s study did not find anything a normal person would call ‘blight.’ Instead, it found that the neighborhood was ‘underutilized’—in other words, that the developer could think of bigger things that could be built where these homes and businesses are. If that is all that is necessary for condemnation, then literally every piece of property in New York is at risk.