Few decisions of the United States Supreme Court stirred more controversy in recent years than Kelo. Government has always been able to take private property for a public purpose, but in 2005 SCOTUS defined “public purpose” to include taking property so a private developer could redevelop the property. A similar situation is unfolding in New York.
Let’s review a case pending in the highest court of the State of New York – Goldstein v. Empire State Development Corp. It seems that Mr. Goldstein’s condominium in Prospect Heights stands in the way of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards, a proposed 22 acre sports complex and a decision is expected soon.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and developer Bruce C. Ratner have promised that the project will bring jobs, affordable apartments and the Nets basketball team.
Never mind that Mr. Goldstein’s three bedroom condo is located in a converted eight story sturdy old warehouse designed by a renowned Chicago architect some 80 years ago. Or that he paid $590,000 for his unit in 2003. According to the consultants hired by the state, the property is “blighted”.
It seems that less than half of the 22 acres of the proposed redevelopment area contain a below grade rail yard used by the MTA, and, (perish the thought) there are growing weeds and graffiti on some of the properties. Thus, the consultants rationalize, the entire 22 acres is blighted, subject to what amounts to a seizure of private property by government for use by a private developer.
And, how is that Kelo deal working out, you ask? At the time of the decision, Mr. Justice Stevens insisted that:
The city [of New London] has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue.
This carefully formulated plan essentially gave Ms. Kelo’s land to a private developer to construct a hotel, office buildings, etc. to “enhance” Pfizer’s existing nearby research and development headquarters.
Almost four and one half years after the Supreme Court’s decision, the city of New London has spent $78 million to bulldoze the properties so taken by the city, no development has occurred on that property, nor is any likely to occur anytime soon, and, were that not enough, Pfizer has announced it is closing it’s facility in New London.
No development, no jobs, no increased tax revenue…I’m beginning to wonder whether any government large or small can do anything correctly.