Thursday, December 20, 2007

NY's Thriving Eminent Domain Industry

NY's Threatening Eminent Domain Industry

As few have noted in the mainstream press, New York City has a thriving eminent domain industry. Attorney and urban planner, Michael White, has an OpEd in today's NY Sun examining the current captains of that industry - Forest City Ratner, Columbia University and the Empire State Development Corporation. White discusses how the threat of eminent domain is as powerful a tool as eminent domain itself.

We believe strongly that a private institution or corporation -- Columbia University or Forest City Ratner -- must not be allowed to threaten a governmental, constitutional power they have no legal right to use, years before government even begins discussions on approving fifth amendment condemnation. And any government body that allows such threatening, extra-legal behavior is an accomplice.

From the NY Sun OpEd, we quote at length:

Columbia Pulls a Kelo
By Michael White

In a City Council hearing this week I pointed out something our politicians already know: New York has an eminent domain industry and it's thriving.

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects private property from being taken by eminent domain, says that property can only be taken for "public use." And while the language of the constitution remains the same, the interpretation has changed.

Once upon a time, "eminent domain" meant private property could only be taken for public use, for things such as roads or public parks. Now, it is possible to take property from one private owner and give it to another -- if public officials endorse that the shift will be for the "public good." Needless to say, the condemnation industry is busy
Most don't know that a private owner who covets the property of another can, outside the scrutiny of the public eye, start the condemnation process by writing a check to the self-funding government agency ? to finance costs, including government staff salaries ? so that agency will put together materials advancing the condemnation. In that vein, Columbia University, interested in acquiring a swath of West Harlem, wrote a $300,000 starter check to ESDC in 2004, years before any public hearings.

Public use can now mean increasing tax revenue (look out tax exempt churches - and if think I am joking, its already happened in Bridgeport, Conn), look out historic properties, look out wildlife refuges - none you see, generate as much tax revenue as a corporate headquarters or shopping mall.

Just keep letting them America! Keep eroding the middle class, keep driving small and medium sized companies out of business by handing over their land to Forest City and their ilk. Pass on the problems to the next generation, flip on the playoffs and crack a cold one.

This is system is corrupt beyond belief and the worse it gets, the more it seems, Americans become oblivious to it. We have slept while a pack of jackals have hijacked the republic, provoking us into war, ignoring our borders, intentionally destroying the middle class, twisting laws and concepts to favor big business and political insiders. I am pessemistic about it ever stopping. Politicians, funded by PACs make promises, then break them and buy enough time for the public to forget or to literally import a new people. At this point, I don't know what's to be done.

Is there an honest judge out there? A whistle blower at the ESDC? An insider willing to come forward?

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