NY High Court Overturns Ruling: OK's Columbia U's Eminent Domain Use

By
Real Estate Agent with Compass

 

Rendering of Columbia campus

Back in December I reported that the New York State Supreme Court awarded two small businesses a big victory over Columbia University, ruling that property owners can't be forced to give up land the school needs for an expansion project.

The court ruled that the Empire State Development Corporation a state agency tried to stack the deck in Columbia’s favor and called the project a "Scheme". The court said that NY state "colluded" with Columbia to produce the very conditions that would then allow ESDC to seize property. The court ruling said "taking the properties to benefit an elite private university is unconstitutional and unwarranted.

This week, in a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals overturned the lower court ruling that prohibited the state from using eminent domain to take property in the 17-acre  Columbia expansion zone west of Broadway, known as Manhattanville, without the owners’ consent.

The ruling held that the courts must give deference to the state’s determination that the area was “blighted” and that condemnation on behalf of a university served a public purpose, two ways that the project could qualify for eminent domain under state law.

The ruling cited an earlier decision in the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards case. The opinion, written by Judge Ciparick  “We ruled for Atlantic Yards, and if we could rule in favor of a basketball arena, surely we could rule for a nonprofit university.”

The lower court agreed with the property owners that the area was not "blighted" and never became blighted until Columbia took over control of the majority of property. The appeals court said the lower court ignored a study from 2003 that declared the area blighted and the property owner, the owner of Tuck-Away Storage had three times the average number of building violations compared with those on parcels acquired by Columbia.

Unfortunately this ruling threatens property rights. According to legal experts it is practically impossible to stop a condemnation in New York because of the courts’ deference to agencies’ determination.  In other words the courts are rubber stampers for the state.

The property owner plans to continue to fight. Both Columbia University and the state agency issued statements saying how the expansion of Columbia will enhance the neighborhood, create thousands of good jobs for New Yorkers and help the city and state remain a global center for pioneering academic research.

Opponents are not against Columbia University expanding they are against the use of eminent domain.

related blogs:

NY Court Rules Columbia University Eminent Domain Use Unconstitutional

NY State Approves Columbia University Expansion: Eminent Domain

Columbia University, NYU; Apartment Buildings - Real Estate Empires

 

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Rainmaker
1,479,356
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

boooooooo.

I am not against Columbia University exanding...

Jun 27, 2010 05:53 AM #1
Ambassador
1,654,264
Jennifer Fivelsdal
JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571 - Rhinebeck, NY
Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection

Mitchell thanks for sharing this interesting ruling pertaining to eminent domain.

Jun 27, 2010 06:50 AM #2
Ambassador
891,130
Lane Bailey
Century 21 Results Realty - Suwanee, GA
Realtor & Car Guy

Eminent Domain abuse is the biggest issue that the NAR should be running with.  If the government can seize control of private property for any reason, there is effectively no more private property.  This one at least seems borderline...  There are some that aren't even close to what the Founders intended... 

Jun 27, 2010 04:20 PM #3
Rainmaker
599,330
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Maureen,

From the NY Daily News,

The benefits are clear and enormous. New York is fortunate the court recognized that construction of a major education resource is a fit use for eminent domain and saw past the flawed workings of the state's economic development agency in presenting what should have been easily conclusive evidence that the neighborhood was blighted.

Right has prevailed.

Jennifer, Thanks it is interesting. NYU is looking to expand too.

 



Jun 27, 2010 04:27 PM #4
Rainmaker
599,330
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Lane,

I don't know if NAR cares. It doesn't directly affect their members. They seem more interested in how their logo is used.

43 states have tightened the requirements for eminent domain use, but New York has not.

 

Jun 27, 2010 04:44 PM #5
Rainer
149,377
Paul Warkow
Paul Warkow-D.G. Weber Law Associates - Hauppauge, NY

This ruling seems in line with the US Supreme Court decision which allowed the use of eminent domain in Connecticut for the benefit of developer to develope land.  It seems the only way to stop this is through legislation or through a state's constitution.  Otherwise, nobody's land is safe.

Jun 28, 2010 03:56 AM #6
Rainmaker
565,635
Mike Saunders
Lanier Partners - Athens, GA

Eminent domain is one of the most reprehensible abuses of constitutional powers. It is a private university, non-profit (so no new tax base), there is no "public" benefit nor use of the property.

Jun 28, 2010 04:25 AM #7
Rainmaker
1,479,356
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

blighted confuses me...

"The lower court agreed with the property owners that the area was not "blighted" and never became blighted until Columbia took over control of the majority of property. The appeals court said the lower court ignored a study from 2003 that declared the area blighted and the property owner, the owner of Tuck-Away Storage had three times the average number of building violations compared with those on parcels acquired by Columbia."

It is so subjective.

I remember that being an issue with an eminant domain  case in Ohio.

I THINK our state law changed a few years ago to protect property owners... or maybe it was just proposed legislation.

Jun 28, 2010 04:38 AM #8
Rainmaker
599,330
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Paul, NY needs to change the separation of power in the branches of government. "The court's deference to agencie's determination" that needs to be changed. The state is not a judge.

Mike, There will be no new real estate tax base. All the buildings Columbia purchased are off the tax roll because a school is exempt. They've been off the rolls for 10 years. According to Columbia the new campus brings in thousands of new jobs. $430 million in tax revenues for New York City and the state.

The campus will have open spaces accessible to the general public, including widened sidewalks, mid-block open spaces, a large square and smaller open spaces, educational, cultural and health care facilities open to the public.

Maureen, "Blighted" is the problem. It stems from a 1954 supreme court decision. Not only is it subjective but if you have tons of money like Columbia or a major developer, you can buy up many buildings in a neighborhood, close them down, desolate the neighborhood and then have a study commissioned to declare it "blighted" so the government can use eminent domain to take over the remaining hold out buildings. 

Columbia should build a new campus but they didn't need the use of eminent domain. The community supported Columbia. The only thing the community asked was that they don't use eminent domain. IMO they should pay the property owner $100 million for his warehouse or build around it.

 

Jun 28, 2010 01:05 PM #9
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Mitchell J Hall

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