The last remaining major private landowner in the footprint of Columbia University’s planned West Harlem expansion issued a lengthy critique of the state’s use of eminent domain to acquire his property, laying the groundwork for a legal battle that will likely lie ahead.
Nicholas Sprayregen, owner of Tuck-it-Away Storage, released the critique as the state today holds its second of two hearings on the proposed use of eminent domain. A wealthy landlord and developer who said he expects to fund a lengthy challenge, Mr. Sprayregen owns multiple warehouses in the footprint.
In the documents submitted to the Empire State Development Corporation today–the state agency that uses eminent domain–Mr. Sprayregen takes issue with the general notion that the area in the footprint is "blighted," a necessary condition for eminent domain. Any blight, he wrote is "created by, maintained by, or exacerbated by Columbia University," given that the university owns or controls much of the property.
More generally, Mr. Sprayregen, represented by attorney Norman Siegel, wrote that the process by which eminent domain has been permitted went against the "public use" standard set in the renowned Kelo v. City of New London case, in part because Columbia was the preferred developer from the start–not one selected via a bid.
(More from the document itself here.)
Columbia has long said it is seeking to reach a deal with all the landowners, and needs to use eminent domain in order to create a large, unified campus with a contiguous multi-story underground space.