Columbia University is working to steal its neighbors’ land, writes Damon Root for Reason. Here’s a low-light, written by one person whose land Columbia hopes to take:
Under New York state law, in order to condemn property the state first has to undertake a “neighborhood conditions study” and declare the area in question “blighted.” Earlier this summer the state released its study, which concluded that Manhattanville is indeed “blighted.” This gives the state the legal green light to condemn my four buildings and hand them over to the university.
The study’s conclusion was unsurprising. Since the commencement of acquisitions in Manhattanville by Columbia, the school has made a solid effort to create the appearance of “blight.” Once active buildings became vacant as Columbia either refused to renew leases, pressured small businesses to vacate, or made unreasonable demands that resulted in the businesses moving elsewhere. Columbia also let their holdings decay and left code violations unaddressed. . .
There is also a conflict of interest in the condemnation process. The firm the state hired to perform the “impartial” blight study — the planning, engineering and environmental consultant Allee King Rosen & Fleming, Inc. (AKRF) — had been retained by Columbia two years earlier to advocate for governmental approval of the university’s expansion, including the possible use of eminent domain.
When I go to court in a few months to contest the condemnation, I will face an overwhelmingly unfair process particular to New York, and to eminent domain trials. I will not be permitted to question any of the state or Columbia’s representatives, nor will I be allowed to have anyone take the witness stand on my behalf. My attorney will only be provided with 15 minutes to speak to the court on a matter that Columbia and the state have been working on for over four years.