Prospect Heights Not Dickensian, Still a Slum

The Court of Appeals is not so impressed with Prospect Heights.

Okay, so it’s not as bad as a Dickens’ Bleak House, the state’s highest court admits, but in a majority opinion issued this morning, six of the judges agreed with the state that the neighborhood is blighted, and that Bruce Ratner should be allowed to take whatever land he needs to build the shinier, happier Atlantic Yards development.

Blight’s changed, says the court. The petitioners, led by Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, “are doubtless correct that the conditions…do not begin to approach in severity the dire circumstances of urban slum dwelling described by the Muller court in 1936,” wrote Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, but he added, it doesn’t have to look like the Great Depression to be blight. Nor does it have to look like any of that pre-Depression blight you might have read about. “Of course, none of the buildings are as noisome or dilapidated as those described in Dickens’ novels or Thomas Burke’s Limehouse stories of the London slums of other days,” the court wrote back in the 1950s–in a quote cited by the court.

Judge Robert S. Smith wrote the lone dissent, saying, basically: “[The state] did not find, and it does not appear they could find, that the area where petitioners live is a blighted area or slum.”

The court does admit maybe Prospect Heights isn’t terrible. “It may be that the bar has now been set too low – that what will now pass as ‘blight,’ as that expression has come to be understood and used by political appointees to public corporations relying upon studies paid for by developers, should not be permitted to constitute a predicate for the invasion of property rights and the razing of homes and businesses,” but that’s for the legislature to decide they say. (Surely the legislature will get right on this.)

Meanwhile, on Craig’s List, Prospect Height remains “a wonderful sought after area.” Prospect Heights Not Dickensian, Still a Slum