Nick Sprayregen, one of two property owners resisting the the Manhattanville expansion project, filed a suit today against the Empire State Development Corporation, claiming that the ESDC made various errors in the process of deciding that eminent domain laws apply to the Manhattanville area, allowing the state to seize it and sell to Columbia.
According to Sprayregen, one of the major errors was made in determining the area to be “blighted,” which allows the state to seize it and sell it to any buyer who promises to develop it in a way that will at least partly serve the public interest (through providing housing, social services, etc.).
But aside from the slumlord argument that Columbia has owned many buildings in the area for years, and “so the state of those properties is the university’s responsibility,” Sprayregen bluntly states over and over in his 107 page petition that the whole thing’s a big conspiracy. Various city and state bodies completely flouted many aspects of the law, he says, to allow an “elite private university” to do whatever it wants.
The suit hopes to counter the long process of government approval for the Manhattanville project – the city’s Land Use Committee approved the plans over a year ago, the EDSC made a preliminary decision in favor of Columbia eight months ago, and a final decision in December. And the suit will likely take at least another year to play out, several if Sprayregen has correctly predicted that it will reach the supreme court. But stay tuned – Sprayregen’s petition, with its talk of a “secret collaboration” between government bodies and Columbia to “fabricate pretextual purposes to cover up the illegality of its dominant purpose,” could spawn a fast-paced spy/conspiracy thriller staring Matt Damon any day now.
Check out our past coverage for more background on Manhattanville.