In New York, it doesn’t matter whether or not your neighborhood is actually blighted, but rather whether the Empire State Development Corporation wants it. That brilliant insight into property rights can be supported by looking at Wednesday’s ruling in Matter of Uptown Holdings v. City of New York:
In my view, the record amply demonstrates that the neighborhood in question is not blighted, that whatever blight exists is due to the actions of the City and/or is located far outside the project area, and that the justification of under-utilization is nothing but a canard to aid in the transfer of private property to a developer. Unfortunately for the rights of the citizens affected by the proposed condemnation, the recent rulings of the Court of Appeals in Matter of Goldstein v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp. (2009) and Matter of Kaur v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp. (2010), have made plain that there is no longer any judicial oversight of eminent domain proceedings. Thus, I am compelled to concur with the majority.
As Damon Root at Reason notes, the courts continue to kick the can down the road when it comes to using judicial review to find these kinds of takings wholly unconstitutional. The legislature shouldn’t have to pass legislation to make it clear that the state can’t just hand over private property, for instance, to Columbia University under the false pretense that it’s blighted. (Quick trivia: If there are cracks in your sidewalk, guess what? You have blighted property!)