New York’s highest court ruled on Tuesday that private property could be condemned for the “Atlantic Yards” project. That project involves, among other things, an NBA arena and 16 office and residential towers in Brooklyn. The properties were purportedly condemned to eliminate “blight.”
In Goldstein et al. v. N.Y. State Urban Development Corporation, the New York Court of Appeals upheld the condemnations in a 6 to 1 decision. The project was challenged, in part, on the basis that that since the condemned properties would ultimately be owned by private entities, they were not being condemned for a “public use.” The New York Constitution – as well as the U.S. and most state constitutions – provide that properties can only be condemned for a “public use.”
The Court rejected that claim ruling that projects eliminating blight satisfy the public use requirement and that the fact that the properties would ultimately be owned by private entities did not make the condemnations unconstitutional. This is consistent with the eminent domain law of most states and has been federal law since the 1950s.
The condemnations were also challenged on the basis that the properties were not truly blighted. The Court also rejected this argument and expressed the common belief among the judiciary that, other than in the most egregious cases, courts should not second guess the legislature’s decisions regarding the need for projects.
A copy of the opinion can be found at www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/decisions/2009/nov09/178opn09.pdf