Thursday, July 12, 2007

Columbia Renounces (Some) Eminent Domain

The Real Estate Observer reports today that Columbia University will not use eminent domain against residents of Harlem. Their new flexibility suggests that it is possible to propose large development projects without confiscating private property, such as in the NYC Economic Development Corporation's proposal to demolish the Duffield Street homes. The article, Columbia Renounces (Some) Eminent Domain (by Matthew Schuerman, July 12, 2007) states:

Columbia University announced today that it will not seek to take over people’s homes through eminent domain, a huge step in addressing one of the most controversial aspects of its expansion into West Harlem.

“Columbia University will not ask the state to invoke eminent domain to evict tenants living in these 132 residential units,” Robert Kasdin, the university’s senior executive vice president, said in a press release. The announcement came two days after the school presented its proposal to rezone 17 acres of West Harlem to make way for classroom buildings and research labs—and also two days after the community board unanimously approved an alternative plan that, among other items, strongly argued against eminent domain.

“I think that’s a great first step,” said Patricia Jones, the president of the West Harlem Development Corporation and a member of the local community board.

Hopefully the EDC will realize that the development boom in Downtown Brooklyn will continue without kicking people out of their homes.