Playing the eminent domain game in NY: Government always wins

That’s what Nick Sprayregen, the main property owner threatened by Columbia University’s expansion plans in Manhattan, has to say this week in the New York Daily News about his experience dealing with the private-public partnership that would like to see him and his business gone. His piece this develops ideas from the piece that ran last week in the Wall Street Journal.

But he gets to the heart of why eminent domain is wrong:

Defenders of the system say eminent domain is necessary to allow for big economic development and housing projects to go forward. They liken today’s use of eminent domain to yesterday’s use, when property was condemned for the building of roads, fire houses and public libraries. Today, however, what the practice really amounts to is the state playing favorites, choosing one private interest over another – and abusing a government power that should only be wielded in the most limited of circumstances.

And points to Columbia’s own culpability in the diminished quality of the neighborhood:

In the case of West Harlem, the blight study is corrupted further because it conveniently ignores the role of Columbia. The university owns 80% of the land in Manhattanville. Columbia has had direct and indirect roles in creating, magnifying and ignoring poor conditions in their own buildings. This is not an allegation. It is completely documented. Columbia could therefore wind up being the sole beneficiary of eminent domain despite its own "dirty hands." This is wrong.

It’s an excellent piece that deserves to be read in full.

With Sprayregen’s piece, however, the Daily News ran two articles unabashedly in favor of eminent domain abuse. The first wildly claims that eminent domain is "under attack" and conveniently obfuscates private and public use. The second errs in similar ways with similar language.