Perkins to Paterson: Don’t Appeal Columbia Decision, Reform Eminent Domain

State Senator Bill Perkins, a consistent critic of Columbia University’s planned West Harlem expansion, has asked Governor Paterson not to appeal last week’s surprise court ruling that blocked the use of eminent domain for the school’s project.

In a letter to the governor dated Tuesday, Mr. Perkins called for “a statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain,” and said he was preparing “a bill to reform how eminent domain is exercised.”

He also tries to invoke the issue on a more personal level with the governor, bringing up a 2005 rally the two of them attended, protesting the use of eminent domain:

You may recall that back in 2005 you and I stood on the steps of City Hall together with several members of the City Council to protest the United States Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London which affirmed the use of eminent domain for private development that entails a so-called “public use.” That decision contained language encouraging states to review their own eminent domain statutes. Some states have done just that. It is now New York’s turn.

Mr. Perkins has established himself as one of few loud voices in the Legislature to protest eminent domain. Other representatives from Harlem were far more supportive of eminent domain, particularly for the university’s expansion into the warehouse-filled neighborhood, and few others have tried to make eminent domain an issue.

Columbia, which owns the vast majority of the land in the 17-acre footprint, said last week its early expansion plans would not be derailed by the court decision, made by a state appellate court. The state’s development agency has pledged an appeal, and, just last month, the state’s top court last month upheld the use of eminent domain for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, a private development that plans a new Nets basketball arena and more than 6,000 apartments. 

ColumbiaEminentDomainLHead (1)