NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 30, 2009

Atlantic Yards -- a publicly subsidized multibillion dollar project in New York which includes public land, some "heavily blighted" private property and some "land with less blight" -- will house apartment and office buildings as well as the Barclay Center for the Brooklyn Nets.  However, not everyone is excited, says Roger Meiners, professor of economics and law at the University of Texas at Arlington.  Recently, property owners sued the governor, the mayor, the state, city agencies and private developers who had agreed that the plaintiffs must be forced to sell their land.  Guess who won.

To piece the land together, the developer and government created a coalition to overcome the squawking of those being booted out.  Promises include:

  • Creating an estimated 15,000 union construction jobs; 45 percent will be held by women and minorities.
  • In an agreement with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), over half of the housing units will be rent controlled or sold at below-market rates to low-income buyers.

Dispensing such goodies is the price of doing business in places like New York, says Meiners.  The largess is borne, to the tune of $1 billion, by the taxpayers and, in part, by the property owners forced out at a price less than they were willing to accept.  However, the court noted that judges may not intervene on behalf of the property owners "simply on the basis of our sympathies," and that this case follows precedent, including the much discussed Kelo case.

Yet, the Kelo decision shocked many people when they saw ordinary folks being booted out of their homes so a developer could get control of property, says Meiners.  Due to the backlash, many states passed anti-takings legislation.  However, some states allow an exception to use eminent domain to seize property for private development if there is "blight."  As the court in the Atlantic Yards case noted, this is "merely the means to the end."

Source: Roger Meiners, "This Land is My Land, Your Land is My Land…" PERC Reports, Vol. 26, No. 4, December 2008.

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