I am sorry to see that Columbia University is still trying to use eminent domain acquire property in the Manhattanville neighborhood in West Harlem. Last year, it seemed that Columbia had largely abandoned this misguided policy, though it reserved the right to potentially use eminent domain to forcibly acquire "a few" commercial properties. It is now seeking to use the condemnation process to acquire several properties in the area owned by small businesses. Nick Spraygens, owner of some of the lots in question has an interesting Wall Street Journal op ed describing his plight. As he notes, New York state has some of the laxest eminent domain laws in the entire country, enabling virtually any property to be declared "blighted" and condemned. Sadly, this is also true in many other states, even in the wake of new reforms enacted as a result of the backlash against the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. City of New London.
I have criticized Columbia's plans in several earlier posts. See this one for the most recent, which also contains links to earlier ones. In this 2006 post, I gave some reasons why eminent domain should not be used to transfer property to universities more generally. Universities are wonderful institutions (what else would you expect a professor to say?). But if they want to expand, they should be required to purchase the land they want from willing sellers.