Friday, January 8, 2010
George Will wrote a column for the Washington Post titled "Avaricious developers and governments twist the meaning of 'blight.'" Will discusses the Atlantic Yards project (which we have blogged about) in light of the more general controversy over economic development takings. He starts with a mention of the 1776 Battle of Brooklyn and then gets to the contemporary issue:
The fight involves an especially egregious example of today's eminent domain racket. The issue is a form of government theft that the Supreme Court encouraged with its worst decision of the past decade -- one that probably will be radically revised in this one.
The Atlantic Yards site, where 10 subway lines and one railway line converge, is the center of the bustling Prospect Heights neighborhood of mostly small businesses and middle-class residences. Its energy and gentrification are reasons why 22 acres of this area -- the World Trade Center site is only 16 acres -- are coveted by Bruce Ratner, a politically connected developer collaborating with the avaricious city and state governments.
To seize the acres for Ratner's use, government must claim that the area -- which is desirable because it is vibrant -- is "blighted." The cognitive dissonance would embarrass Ratner and his collaborating politicians, had their cupidity not extinguished their sense of the absurd.
It's interesting that Will credits Kelo as the "worst decision" of the millenium so far, yet thinks that it will be "radically revised." I don't think that it will, but we'll see. But also interesting is his promotion of the Atlantic Yards case (through his Washington Post platform) as a national issue. The NY Courts have basically given it a pass under both Kelo and state law. We will have to see if it gets any traction as a public-use case. But he is correct that the controversy over "blight" designations, and the perception that the blight loophole eviscerates may purported post-Kelo "reforms," will probably increase.