The university tried to invoke eminent domain to seize land.
Columbia University is one of New York’s largest landowners, and perhaps the one with the most to gain from the state’s power to seize private property. But in a surprise ruling in early December, a state court struck down the city’s attempt to take private land in West Harlem and give it to the university. Now that case is becoming an important beachhead in the fight over eminent domain.
Columbia argues that property the area is “blighted” and, as such, should be condemned. But a local business owner compellingly argues that any blight in the area was caused by Columbia.
Columbia had increased its ownership or control from a handful of properties in 2001 to 51% in 2007 and 91% of the area today. Along the way it let the properties decay by erecting ugly scaffolding, pushing out commercial tenants, and allowing trash to pile up.
In all, Mr. Sprayregen put 10,000 pages of documents into the court record to show that West Harlem was not blighted before Columbia began its plans. “Is it fair to reward a private entity for its own bad conduct, its own role in producing neighborhood deterioration?” he asks. More at the Wall Street Journal…