The city recently launched eminent domain proceedings for a long-delayed six-acre East Harlem redevelopment zone where property owners say they are unfairly being squeezed off their land.
The city's Planning Commission approved the acquisition of the property via the use of eminent domain in August 2008 with the goal of building the $700 million East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center, a 1.7 million-square-foot project that was supposed to include affordable housing, retail and cultural space, and create at least 1,500 permanent jobs.
But the developers have had struggles, with developer General Growth having gone bankrupt and Archstone being acquired by another company.
The delay left the land in limbo with rising property taxes but sapped the owners' ability to sell, develop or mortgage their land because of a blight designation, necessary for any eminent domain prococess.
The city would have lost the right to use eminent domain in the area on Feb. 16 without starting the proceedings, which they did on Feb. 12.
Officials with the city's Economic Development Corporation said the filing was made to preserve their right to use eminent domain in the area "only as a last resort," because they hope to negotiate sales agreements with the property owners.