Thursday, December 24, 2009

Paterson flip flops on eminent domain abuse

How things have changed. A little more four years ago, state Senator David Paterson and Council Member Bill Perkins were of the same mind on eminent domain, especially concerned about Columbia University's planned expansion in West Harlem, an area in their districts.

They called for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial 5-4 Kelo vs. New London decision upholding eminent domain for economic development.

Now Perkins is in the state Senate, the leader of a somewhat lonely legislative effort to reform the state's eminent domain laws, much criticized by not only the libertarian Institute for Justice but also civil rights lawyers like the diehard liberal Norman Siegel. (Perkins has a letter in today's Times asserting that the state's "attempted taking of private property on behalf of Columbia University illustrates how the current process lacks accountability, transparency or meaningful public participation.")

Now Paterson is governor, with a much larger constituency and having inherited some projects--like Atlantic Yards and Columbia--that depend on eminent domain.

And, in separate appearances Saturday just a few blocks (and a few hours) away, Perkins highlighted the need for change, and Paterson stood his ground.

The New York Observer's Jimmy Vielkind asked Paterson about the Columbia case, noting that the ESDC was charged with using eminent domain improperly; should the state appeal and was the process sound?

"We thought that the process was in compliance with land use principles and did not violate eminent domain," Paterson responded. "When I was a state senator in 2005 and I saw the original plan for Columbia, I was virulently opposed to it. But we felt that ESDC and Columbia University had adjusted that plan to be in compliance with the law."

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