New York Property Owners Win, for Once

In a shocking development, the New York Supreme Court has actually made a decision against expanding eminent domain abuse. The Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court sided with property owners in their suit against Columbia University and the Empire State Development Corporation. Columbia University had attempted to use eminent domain to seize a large swath of West Harlem in order to raze the land and build new amenities. While this decision is welcome news for New York property owners, the editorial page of the New York Times does not seem to get it.

In an editorial published on Dec. 13, the author argues that the decision “misguidedly put a roadblock in the way of Columbia University’s expansion plans…that would benefit the surrounding neighborhood and the entire city.” It is yet unclear as to how residents and business owners in the neighborhood would benefit from the seizure of their homes and livelihoods. 

The editorial claims that the new development would further extend educational opportunities, promote economic development in the neighborhood, and provide public access to open spaces. If Columbia University is truly extending their hand, who benefits? The promoters of this project act as if they are outpouring their academic and economic prosperity, but fail to recognize that they are trampling upon the rights of their neighbors in order to do so. The New York Times claims that this project will provide an economic boon for the community. It should be fairly obvious that existing businesses generate considerably more wealth than the “open spaces” planned in the expansion project.

It would appear from the article that this project combines all the best aspects of classrooms, parks, and community outreach centers. Luckily for New Yorkers, the State Supreme Court managed to see past lofty claims from the Empire State Development Corporation, and realize that this project amounts to little more than a land grab. After this month’s previous court decision awarding land to corporate developers in Brooklyn, it is reassuring to see that property rights are not dead in the Empire State.