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Eminent Domain Abuse: The Fight Goes On

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In the two years since the alarming and legendary Supreme Court Kelo decision, an astounding 42 states have taken measures to curb the abuse of eminent domain -- the taking of one private owner's land for other than public use. Almost all states are reviewing their laws. Now, one case may be destined for the Supreme test. And it has special national significance.

New York City, which seems to rival Texas for superlatives of size, is home to a lot of real estate developers who have done well in the private sector. One of the richest, Bruce Ratner, has done better with government money. He's not only built government buildings, such as a Federal courthouse in Brooklyn, he's managed to get generous public subsidies as well as government tenants to keep his buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn profitable, to the tunes of millions of dollars.

A close pal and former law school classmate of the former Governor of NY, George Pataki and a neighbor of Mayor Mike Bloomberg, with their help he's also managed to create, with his proposed Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, what has to be one of the biggest boondoggles in history (it would be the densest residential area in the States). Total subsidies will approach or possibly surpass $2 BILLION, but it is a privately owned, profit-making project. And now that Bloomberg seems about to throw his hat into the presidential ring, the significance of this project -- what Ratner's Forest City Ratner Company calls "Atlantic Yards" -- goes way beyond the NYC budget.

Ratner managed to get Pataki and Bloomberg to push a state development agency to attempt to take over the land Ratner wants so he can build a major sports arena (he owns the NJ Nets basketball team and would lease the arena for $1 a year) and 16 high-rises in massive superblocks of upscale condos with some subsidized units in the mix. The state agency, under Pataki's direction, rushed through its process last year and managed to end-run opposition by local elected officials. Now they are all in court, being sued by a large group of homeowners and business owners who are fighting eminent domain abuse. Goldstein vs. ESDC, et al is in Federal Appeals Court, but may very well end up on the Supreme Court docket. It merits following.

For more information, check out these sites:

http://www.dddb.net
http://www.nysun.com/article/66577
http://www.nolandgrab.org/