Sprayregen to Columbia: I Plead the Fifth, You Should Too

Nick Sprayregen, the landowner leading the final hold-out against Columbia’s 17-acre West Harlem expansion, has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal. In it, Mr. Sprayregen (profiled by The Observer in July) attacks Columbia’s threatened use of eminent domain to take his storage company’s property.

In the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the government is permitted to take private property only for “public use.”

This clause was once limited to true public projects such as the construction of highways, fire houses and public libraries. But over the last 50 years it has been bastardized by the powerful (in collusion with compliant politicians and the acquiescence of the courts) into a weapon used routinely to forcibly take other people’s property for nonpublic uses. What is occurring in West Harlem today is a prime example of this abuse.