Short Reprieve for Brooklynites

A heavy day for eminent domain news: Property owners on two Brooklyn blocks that were about to be condemned as part of an urban renewal project are getting a short reprieve thanks to a bureaucratic blunder.

The two blocks have attracted a good deal of attention because one of them, along Duffield Street, was supposedly a hotbed of Underground Railroad activity, and because the other, at Ashland Place and Fulton Street, was supposed to be acquired and turned into an arts complex (PDF) even though the current tenants there are planning to do much of the same thing.

The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development has rescinded its eminent domain determination for the two sites, although the agency is not backtracking from the city’s plans. Rather, HPD spokesman Neill Coleman said in an e-mail that the city had failed to enter a blight determination into the public record. That means the public process has to start over from the beginning, with a new public hearing, Oct. 29, and a new determination period. (The original hearing took place in May.)

“The people involved are using it as an opportunity to try to get the politicians to convince HPD that they should alter the footprint,” said Candace Carponter, an attorney for the Amber Art and Music Space, a new business that just spent $1.2 million on renovating a former liquor store on Ashland Place before they learned about the condemnation. “It’s good news to the extent that we can garner more evidence to make a more formal showing at the hearing.”