BREAKING: NY Court of Appeals Upholds Eminent Domain

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A scene from M-Ville. Photo by ESN

The New York Times reports that the NY Court of Appeals has just released its unanimous ruling to uphold eminent domain for Columbia, clearing Columbia’s way to the 17-acre, $6.3 billion project. The court based its ruling on the Empire State Development Corporation’s proof of blight in the neighborhood. Read more about the Court of Appeals and the case itself here, and more general background on Manhattanville here.  The original AP story is here.

PrezBo issued the following statement: “We are gratified by the Court’s unanimous decision and look forward to moving ahead with the long-term revitalization of these blocks in Manhattanville that will create thousands of good jobs for New Yorkers and help our City and State remain a global center of pioneering academic research.”

Nothing new from PrezBo, but a whole lot new for Mahattanville. The Court of Appeals’ ruling eliminates the major legal obstacle from Columbia’s West Harlem expansion plans. Now, it seems, this is actually going to happen.

Update, 2:45: Some more comments from both sides: the EDSC released a statement saying that the ruling “confirms that the project complies with New York State law in all respects and that the acquisition of the holdout properties is essential to realizing the vision for the Manhattanville campus as it was approved by the state.” The EDSC  also noted that the Manhattanville expansion will create thousands of construction jobs for local residents.

Sarah Martin, the chair of the Grant Houses Tenant Association and a member of the Local Development Corporation, was not so pleased, but not surprised, either. “I’m not surprised because of the powers that be,” she told Bwog, “[the expansion] goes against all that is holy as far as I’m concerned. As Robert Jackson says, Columbia is like a 400-pound gorilla stomping through our community.”

Read the full NYT article here, which includes a quote from the property owners’ lawyer, Norman Spiegel, expressing that he is “extremely disappointed” with the ruling, and the Court of Appeals’ reference to its previous Atlantic Yards ruling in relation to Manhattanville: “We ruled for Atlantic Yards, and if we could rule in favor of a basketball arena, surely we could rule for a nonprofit university.”

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  1. this is awful

    isn't this school supposed to be renowned for the activism and the spirit of the students, as evidenced by 1968? where's the passion now?

  2. good

    there is no point to keeping poveritized communities alive - they only encourage further crime.

    go ahead and gentrify the area. what about all the displaced lower-income people? that's the government's responsibility as well as NYC's responsibility to create programs that will give them a free education, good medical care, and a means to find work. Work and education is most important.

    Taking over NYC for research purposes is another step towards a more educated and advanced future society.

  3. harlem resident  

    I've been living in the area that this will affect, and I'm really excited about the change. I think it will be great for the city, the school, and everyone involved. Congrats, Columbia!

  4. Anonymous

    About friggen time this happened.

    sidenote: It's funny to see the students who normally protest everything on their liberal agenda actually support this expansion. I dunno, I just find it funny.

  5. Anonymous

    I am so excited to see this finally going through. It will be a great asset to the university

  6. Boom  

    Goes the dynamite!

  7. spec has done  

    some questionable stuff lately but their coverage of the expansion stuff is pretty good


  8. West Harlem resident

    Wonderful! As a Columbia student who lives on W. 135th St., I think this is a great step forward. I'm thrilled with the direction this neighborhood is going.

  9. ha ha

    Suck it Sprayregen! He's a multimillionaire. I don't feel sorry for him. I do feel a little bad for the Singhs, who own the two gas stations on 125th. Hope they get a good deal before the state condemns the property.

  10. ...

    this is such bullshit. merck has done great things for the world and is a research powerhouse. does that mean they have the right to request government interference when doing business with private entities if prices don't suit them?

    • umm

      i'd have no problem with that ...

      • ...

        ok. where is the line then? energy companies are essential to literally keeping the lights on in modern society, should they also have the ability to activate a mechanism for price fixing when they do business as well?

        what about automobile companies? with the exception of a few urban centers, the automobile is deeply embedded in american infrastructure. should they have the right to having the government step in and fix prices when they do business?

        i mean, maybe we should have the government fix all prices in all private transactions. that way, the winners and the losers will be chosen by way of political nepotism, just as it damn well should. if not, we'll just let political nepotism arbitrarily draw the line and pretend like we have an open economy.

        ...and i ain't no libertarian. i wet the bed with the best of them.

    • uh

      Don't they do stuff like that already??

  11. sad

    it's sad that this great university has had to go through such hell to move forward with a responsible expansion like this. Columbia has been more than reasonable in relocating residents, promising local jobs, building a new public school, keeping the public informed, etc.

  12. Oh well  

    What do you expect? Air of leftist entitlement, the whole lot of them.

  13. WAIT!

    does this mean that dinosaur is going to be gone?

  14. seas '10

    people keep talking of protecting the residents of West Harlem, but the US gov is not a nanny state. So unfortunately the hard reality is if Columbia's doesn't expand into the area, some real estate hedge fund will just buy much of the property, tear it down, build condos and drive people out through hire rent. I trust Columbia more than I do a hedge fund, and at least this way, there are opportunities for west harlem residents to be employed by local businesses, with rich Columbia students spending their money at local businesses.

    Think of Chipotle, or taqueria y fonda la mexicana or massawa or those asian shoe repair places, majority of customers are college students, all good businesses for the community.

    • seas '10

      higher not hire, sorry

    • Ummm  

      You know that Chipotle is a large chain that McDonald's held a large stake in for quite a while, right? Should they even be in the same sentence as Massawa or Taqueria?

    • ...

      sure seems like they are here. columbia wants to expand, the landowners don't want to sell at the prices that columbia sees fit, so columbia gets on the phone to mom to have her come down and force them.

      it really tickles me to think that the columbia rich kid meme (rich spoiled kids with powerful parents on speed dial) is almost perfectly mimicked by the institution itself in this whole debacle. those mean landowners won't sell at prices columbia thinks are reasonable, so columbia calls up it's powerful family to come down and force them. just like the rich kid who calls mommy and daddy donor to get out of discipline or their housing situation changed.

  15. cc12

    in response to "anonymous": not all of us are happy about this. I am one of those crazy liberal students -- and I stand by my principles and am pissed about the court decision. NY NEEDS to reform the eminent domain law...If students weren't so selfish, they'd see that

    • cc05

      Don't worry, the hard, cold cruel real world will straighten you out relatively soon. When I was your age, I was a hippie anthro major too. Unless you're one of those St. A's trust fund babies cum ISO members, in which case I can't really help you...

    • actually  

      Liberals tend to like eminent domain, because it enables the government to take the property of the individual (just like Amendment XVI of the Constitution does). It's conservatives and libertarians who tend to be against the practice.

      Making eminent domain harder to use will only help rich people. Poor people tend not to own property.

    • it's not just NY

      The US Supreme Court hasn't decided against the state in an eminent domain case in the last 100 years. They keep expanding the scope. Kelo v. New London (2004) which ruled that the city of New London, CT could take property as part of a "downtown revitalization" plan (i.e. take private property and give it to private developers) wasn't even that radical; it just reiterated a similar ruling 50 years ago. Eminent domain isn't stopping any time soon.

      But that's just legalism. Even if the laws are corrupt, isn't eminent domain just economically unjust? I don't know. It's interesting that you call yourself a radical liberal, yet protect private property rights so fiercely. The idea that private property owners have an inviolable right to their property, so that they can extort anyone who wants to buy a large amount of property in a certain area is a distinctly libertarian notion. And I have no sycophantic attachment to the idea of a "free" capitalist market. If the goverment, an NGO, nonprofit, or even a corporation believes it can truly improve an area through development, then let them present their plans to the public and the appropriate regulatory agencies. If it seems kosher, then let them pay above-market rates to the private property owners they will displace and assume responsibility for re-settling them.

      That would be a truly liberal notion of property and development, which privileges public policy and regulation of the market over a blind adherence to the "free" market that allows people who have accumulated capital (through any means) to sit on certain areas forever. Think about it.

      • good points...  

        Until you get to the end. Most people with passionate political opinions don't take much time to really think through their arguments. That's why they're so passionate. If they used sound reason and inquiry, their position(s) would fall apart rather quickly.

        The truth (especially in matters of governance) is usually found in the political middle. Extreme liberals don't understand the concept of the law of unintended consequences (and/or basic economic theory)... and extreme conservatives eschew logic and reason, especially on social issues borne of religious belief.

  16. Thank god

    cleaning up harlem, maybe I won't be scared to walk to there at night

  17. Anonymous

    i really think expansion is a good thing for the university. It has been great for NYU, and so long as we build in a manner that is contiguous with the rest of campus, I am going to love every bit of the expansion.

  18. Yes to Larger Campus

    It seems like a good thing to me. Columbia's campus is way too small for a major research institution and this plan is a lot smarter than NYU's (buying random property all over the city). At least Columbia wants to expand in a way that helps link the main campus to the medical school. When it's all done, I think the neighborhood will be safer and the campus will live up to our university's reputation.

  19. cc2012

    Hey Bwog,

    This probably isn't the right forum for this, but I'm not sure how I feel about the way poorly rated comments are hidden. Occasionally, this ends up hiding an offensive comment, which I assume is the intention of the policy, but more often it's just another opinion. So the majority of the time the comments that get hidden are unpopular, but don't have any less reason to be up on the walls. It sort of worries me because it makes the discussions look a little one sided. When people disagree with something, it ends up sort of hushed. I don't know if others agree.

    Thanks for listening

    • Hans  (Bwog Staff)  

      Thanks for your feedback. Voting systems like this are always a compromise in one way or another. Our hope is that people vote responsibly: ideally, irrelevant comments (like Harmony Hunter) will be hidden but well-written, thought-out comments will have a high ratio (and probably considered for Favorite Comments). Of course, many people vote down if they disagree, and this is unavoidable at the moment. Expect some changes... eventually.

      • FYI

        i don't know which WP voting plugin you're using, but isn't there a button where you can automatically turn the hiding-posts function off? I worked on the lamebook.com website once and they got pretty much the same thing. I just do it now dude lol and see if it's better.

        but honestly, i like the auto-hiding thing better. less clutter on the page. also, really hilarious/offensive comments are made THAT MUCH MORE HILARIOUS when something says "Hidden". It's almost mysterious in a way.

      • Alum

        The view/hide option doesn't work on iPhones (at least it doesn't on mine), where there is no way to see the hidden comments.

      • Harmony Hunter

        My comments are always well-written and thoughtful. Do you think I do this as a joke? I really don't know where Harmony is... can you please tell me?

    • ...

      clearly there needs to be a supreme comment court.

  20. FYI

    shut up. i hate people who use \mad\ \chill\ and \legit.\ stop talking like this.

    ps. this in no way has anything to do with your opinion. i agree actually.

  21. dude above me

    is mad not being chill. this is legit upsetting me, yo.

  22. Anonymous

    really, really upsetting how almost-racist comments about "cleaning out" harlem are overwhelmingly applauded by the folks reading bwog. most people in west harlem DO NOT support the expansion, and given columbia's record of expansion during the vietnam war, it isn't too hard to see why. i would challenge anyone who can to provide a legitimate reason why this expansion is good for harlem, why the corporatization of our university is a good thing, etc.

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