Last year, I wrote a series of posts criticizing Columbia University's plans to potentially use eminent domain to seize land it coveted in the Manhanttanville neighborhood in Harlem (see here and here).
I am happy to be able to report that, according to the New York Times, Columbia has decided to renounce the use of eminent domain to further its expansion plans (hat tip: VC reader Michael Pitkowsky):
Columbia University announced yesterday that it would not ask the state to use eminent domain to evict residents of 132 apartments in the 17-acre area of Harlem that it wants to move into.
The announcement, covering all the remaining residents in the area, suggests that the university, which is seeking the city's support for a major northward expansion of its Morningside Heights campus, is trying to be conciliatory.
Unfortunately, as the article notes, Columbia still reserves the option of using eminent domain to acquire the "few" commercial properties that remain in the area. As I explained in great detail in my first post on this issue, there is no good justification for allowing politically powerful institutions such as Columbia to use eminent domain to acquire the property of relatively weaker groups, such as the mostly poor African-American residents of Manhattanville.
After getting extensive negative publicity, Columbia has made the right decision with respect to residential properties. Hopefully, it will eventually reach the same conclusion about the commercial properties as well.
UPDATE: As commenters point out, there is some evidence that Columbia may have actually changed its mind on this issue several months before their recent public announcement (see the account in this article). Whatever the case may be, it is good that they have backed off their earlier threats to use eminent domain against homeowners, but unfortunate that they persist in doing so against owners of commercial properties.