Columbia’s Gem

From our Late To The Party desk:

Friday New York Times headline (dead tree edition):

Victory for Columbia In Eminent Domain Suit


New York’s highest court handed Columbia University a major victory on Thursday for its $6.3 billion plan to build a satellite campus in Harlem, ruling that the state could seize private property for the project.

In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that prohibited the state from using eminent domain to take property in the 17-acre expansion zone west of Broadway, known as Manhattanville, without the owners’ consent. The ruling held that the courts must give deference to the state’s determination that the area was “blighted” and that condemnation on behalf of a university served a public purpose, two ways that the project could qualify for eminent domain under state law.


Columbia hopes to build a series of 16 buildings for science, business and the arts over several decades on the site near the Hudson River, where the streets are lined with warehouses, factories and auto repair shops.

The university has already acquired the bulk of the land it needs, but the owners of four warehouses and two gas stations refused to sell and sued.

And lost. At least this round.

Norman Siegel, who represented the losing owners, said he was “extremely disappointed” in the decision and would appeal to the Supreme Court. Although state law allows eminent domain to be used for educational purposes, he argued that it did not explicitly permit a private institution to benefit from it.

To all appearances, this looks like a World Class Inside Job. For details, see this 2008 Weekly Standard piece headlined:

Columbia University, Slumlord

A case study in abusing eminent domain law.

Whatever your political persuasion, this deal not only stinks, it’s potentially more dangerous than the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision.

Let’s hope the Supremes – Hello, Elaine Kagan –  kill this turkey by Thanksgiving.

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