Friday, May 17, 2013
The N.Y. Times reports on a local initiative:
The Department of Buildings has begun issuing fines to agents and brokers who advertise and show illegal apartments for rent, a new step in a long battle that has traditionally taken on owners of illegal dwellings. The fines, which have been issued to the agents and the companies they work for, begin at $3,600 and can go up to five times that amount.
From January to March [...] The department issued fines to 10 agents, including agents at Douglas Elliman and Halstead Property, for listing apartments in a variety of neighborhoods and boroughs, including Park Slope and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, and Hamilton Heights in Upper Manhattan. All of the apartments were in the basement or the cellar, and most did not have the required two means of egress, the department said. The department says the building code gives it the right to issue fines to agents; in the future, it may go after brokers who supervise the agents as well.
In the PBS special 10 Buildings that Changed America, two architecture gurus discuss the origins of some of the country’s most important buildings.
The hour-long program, which premiered this week take a look at thestories and engineering behind 10 influential American buildings that "changed the way we live, work, and play, and inspired future architecture and construction. It also explores the imagination of the architects that created the structures."
Here's a slideshow of the buildings.
Rachel Godsil (Seton Hall) and David Simunovich (Seton Hall) have posted Protecting Status: The Mortgage Crisis, Eminent Domain, and the Ethic of Homeownership (Fordham) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
is in crisis. Millions of families are at risk of foreclosure as they
are caught between declining housing values and rising interest payments
on adjustable-rate mortgages. The primary concern for such families is
not that they will become homeless - most families who lose their homes
could afford to become renters - but rather that they will lose their
status as homeowners. For families required to sell their property by
the government's use of eminent domain, a similar issue arises, as the
'fair market value' of some homes (the standard measure of compensation)
is generally not enough to allow the family to purchase another home.
The harm of losing one's status as homeowner has afar-reaching impact at
both the individual and collective levels. Property ownership ties one
to the larger community in myriad ways. As compared to renters,
homeowners - even those with the same income, education, and other
socioeconomic characteristics - tend to be more civically active and
more apt to engage in market transactions linked to their homes. Losing
this link to the larger market and community will harm a family's
long-term prospects. When many families lose these connections, whole
The link between the mortgage crisis and the full-scale financial meltdown has led to bipartisan support for a degree of government intervention unseen since the Great Depression. In this Article, we explore why homeownership is so highly valued-and whether the loss of homeownership status should impel government action. We conclude that this loss does warrant government intervention - but also argue that the myopic focus on homeownership absent an adequate regulatory regime and a broader economic agenda has had dire effects. The families caught by the subprime mortgage debacle were often targeted by predatory lenders because of their membership in vulnerable groups. The government's failure to prevent this exploitative behavior then requires its intervention now. However, it is crucial to ensure that government intervention does not create insurmountable barriers to entry for aspiring homeowners or moral hazard. Accordingly, our status-preservationist approach would protect only those who would have received loans had sound lending practices been utilized and would counsel against the view that homeownership alone is adequate to ensure healthy communities. Rather, homeownership has in the past been linked to behaviors that create sound communities. In the context of eminent domain, the argument for status preservation is even stronger, as it is justified by the U.S. Supreme Court's maxim that compensation should be based on fair market value unless doing so 'would result in manifest injustice to owner or public.' We conclude by considering the broader implications of the economic meltdown and reflect on whether it has so permanently altered our conception of homeownership that homeowner status is in the process of losing its value.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
From Joe Singer's blog:
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Albright, — A.3d —, 2013 WL 673738 (Md. 2013) that property owners near a gas station where 26,000 gallons of gasoline spilled from an underground tank could not sue for nuisance when their wells have not yet been contaminated. The neighbors were not allowed to sue for emotional damages, for reduction of the fair market value of their property or for future costs of medical monitoring. Most courts reach the same result although a few courts have allowed damages in such cases for nearby properties when the reduction in fair market value is substantial.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Deepa Varadarajan (St. John's) has posted Improvement Doctrines (George Mason) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
When one party makes significant but unauthorized improvements to another's land, chattels or informational assets, should the "improving" nature of the act alter the liability or remedy calculus? Traditional property law has long had to resolve conflicts that arise when one person improves another's land or chattels without permission -- for example, if A cuts down B's trees and fashions a chair, or A erects a building on B's land. Ordinarily, A would be liable and subject to an injunction because B has a strict right to exclude that is protected by a property rule. But various doctrines in traditional property law, like the doctrines of accession, mistaken improvers of land, and ameliorative waste, make exceptions for improvers. These doctrines either excuse the improver from liability entirely or mandate a remedy more hospitable to the improver. I call these assorted rules "improvement doctrines" and articulate a multi-part framework for understanding the equity and efficiency concerns animating them. In so doing, I challenge the (increasingly contested) presumption that property law unwaveringly favors strict exclusive rights for owners -- a presumption that is often invoked by those advocating strict exclusive rights for intellectual property owners.
This Article demonstrates that unlike property law, intellectual property law has been less receptive to improvement doctrines. This is particularly surprising given intellectual property's normative commitment to progress and innovation. Patented inventions and copyrighted expressive works necessarily build on what came before. While patent law's “reverse doctrine of equivalents” and copyright's “fair use” doctrine may provide incidental relief for unauthorized improvers in certain cases, these intellectual property doctrines are often indifferent to improvement. Given the uncertainty of intellectual property boundaries and the societal consequences of deterring improvement, I argue that the concerns motivating traditional property's improvement doctrines apply with even greater force to intellectual property. Accordingly, I suggest potential areas of reform in patent and copyright law to enhance and regularize judicial consideration of unauthorized improvement at the liability and remedies stages.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
In the paper's Real Estate section, Vivian Marino sits down for an interview with land use lawyer Melanie Meyers, a partner at Fried Frank who represents several large developers. A sample:
Q. Let’s talk about some of your projects, starting with Hudson Yards on the Far West Side.
A. We represent the Related Companies on the western rail yards, and our firm as a whole represented Related from the beginning to the end.
We represented them on the original designation. What they are acquiring or will be acquiring at that time were two very large properties, some of which hadn’t been zoned yet. They were planning on doing about eight million square feet, primarily residential development, on a site that was zoned for a quarter of that and only for manufacturing and commercial uses. We created an entire section of the zoning resolution that would allow for the property to be rezoned and to be developed.
Stephanie Stern (Chicago-Kent) has posted Protecting Property Through Politics: State Legislative Checks and Judicial Takings (Minnesota) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
In the 2010 Supreme Court case Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, a plurality of the Court launched judicial takings in political and scholarly debate and laid the groundwork for expanding the Fifth Amendment to encompass court decisions. This Article explores a neglected institution in the debate over judicial takings — state legislatures. In the comparatively rare instances when state courts overreach, state legislatures can revise state court decisions and restore private property rights. Through case studies of state legislative checks of judicial activism, I examine the comparative institutional advantages, and the potential gaps, of situating primary responsibility for state court revision in state legislatures. In view of takings federalism and the costs of judicial takings, I contend that the existing balance of state legislative checks and state court restraint works well enough to police against state court property activism.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Worcester (Massachusetts) Police Department reports that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body was buried in an undisclosed location in the middle of the night this week, bringing an end to a sad, unprecedented soap opera. This controversy has been resolved – but what happens next time? The Tsarnaev burial saga highlights a fundamental flaw in the American law regarding the disposition of human remains.
Despite the calls of protestors to “feed [Tsarnaev] to the sharks” or “toss him in the landfill,” it is a basic premise of American law that we treat human remains with respect. In fact, it is a general principal of law that every person who dies in the United States is entitled to the decent treatment and disposition of their remains. “Abuse of a corpse” is a crime in many states. A number of state even have statutes forbidding cursing in the presence of a corpse.
But while the law promises that remains will be treated with respect, the government has very little power to enforce that promise.