Saving Property from Columbia University:

Columbia University is using the threat of eminent domain to acquire property in West Harlem for a new campus, and some of the local property owners are none to pleased. On Wednesday, Nick Sprayregen took to the WSJ telling the University to keep its hands off his properties.

Columbia University, a private institution, officially announced its desire for a new campus five years ago. The university zeroed in on the Manhattanville area of Harlem -- between 125th and 134th Streets, and between Broadway and the Hudson River. Since that time, while wielding the sledgehammer of the possible use of eminent domain, Columbia has purchased roughly 80% of Manhattanville.

My family has owned for almost 30 years four commercial Manhattanville properties. We run a self-storage business, plus we lease to various large retailers such as a discount store and a supermarket. For over four years we have been fighting the state and Columbia in their joint attempts to condemn my properties for the school's expansion. . . .

I look forward to my day in court. I am cautiously optimistic that it will expose as unconstitutional what Columbia and the state are attempting to do.

Columbia University Renews Effort to Use Eminent Domain to Acquire Property in Manhattanville:

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.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Columbia University Renews Effort to Use Eminent Domain to Acquire Property in Manhattanville:
  2. Saving Property from Columbia University: