From the Daily News:
A proposed federal law could hinder the city’s bid to revamp Willets Point, business owners there are hoping.
But a city official said the bill, which would discourage municipalities from taking private property for economic development, could also squash future unrelated revitalization projects.
Willets Point United, a vocal group of stakeholders there, has long contended the city’s use of eminent domain to take their land for a mixed-use development is unfair and unethical.
“Does this sound like it should be happening in America?” attorney Michael Rikon said to an applauding crowd gathered around him at a Sunoco gas station in Willets Point on Thursday.
The bill, dubbed the “Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2012,” would cut federal funding to government agencies that use their power of eminent domain for economic development — putting the city’s plans for Willets Point in jeopardy. Eminent domain was traditionally used for public projects such as hospitals and schools, but the U.S. Supreme Court has taken a more sweeping interpretation of what constitutes a “public” project.
The group wants U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to support the bill, which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 28, but is pending Senate approval.
The act would also prohibit the federal government from using eminent domain for economic development.
Meanwhile, a similar bill is making its way through the state legislature, said state Sen. Tony Avella, a Willets Point United supporter.