Immediate Release: June 23, 2005
U.S. Supreme Court Misses Historic Moment
Develop DonŐt Destroy Urges Albany
Curb Eminent Domain Abuse
BROOKLYN, NYĐ Today the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision
in Kelo v. City of New London, deferring to the City of New
LondonŐs determination that the destruction of homes in a
working class neighborhood in order to build a commercial
development is not unconstitutional. The decision stands in
sharp contrast to the unprecedented public outrage over eminent
domain abuse across the U.S. Nevertheless, the decision will
do little to dim civil rights advocates' efforts to curb the
actions of developersĐand their sponsoring state and municipal
agenciesĐwho intend on making the U.S. Constitution's Fifth
Amendment a dead letter.
"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another
private party, but the fallout from this decision will not
be random," Justice O'Connor wrote in the dissenting opinion.
"The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate
influence and power in the political process, including large
corporations and development firms."
O'Connor's words should strike fear in the hearts of all citizens
around the United States.
"Justice O'Connor is absolutely correct, and the Ratner project's
use of eminent domain is a poster child for what she describes,"
said Daniel Goldstein, spokesperson for Develop Don't Destroy
Brooklyn. "Today the Court has kept and reaffirmed the status
quo, but in a severely split decision. The Court has made
a federalist decision, which means it is now Albany's responsibility
to curb and restrict New York's abusive eminent domain laws;
here in Brooklyn and all over the state where private corporate
powers are benefitting off the backs of everyday citizens."
In December 2004, Develop DonŐt Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) was
one of 25 organizations that filed amici curiae briefs in
support of the homeowners in Kelo. The briefs represented
an extraordinary expression of solidarity among the disparate
groups, cutting across racial, political, and social lines.
The briefs in support of the City of New London, in contrast,
were predictably filed in large part by developers and municipal
agencies. To legal observers, the overwhelming public support
for the homeowners and recent state court decisions reining
in eminent domain abuse signaled a sea change, which the Supreme
Court would likely acknowledge in its decision. Regrettably,
the Court failed to seize the historic moment and tamely deferred
to the City of New LondonŐs determination that an increase
in tax revenues justifies the destruction of homes.
Despite the ruling, Bruce Ratner’s plans to build a
high-rise and arena complex in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
still contemplate an illegal and unnecessary use of eminent
domain to force tenants, homeowners, and businesses from the
footprint. “If Ratner uses eminent domain, it will be
up to him to make the case that the neighborhood is blighted,
which it patently is not, or the project makes economic sense,
which is pure fantasy. We will pursue all legal channels available
to us, and we are confident that a court of law will see the
project for the boondoggle that it is,” Goldstein said.
Indeed, Goldstein sat on a panel on Kelo held at the Association
of the Bar of the City of New York on June 8 where even pro-eminent
domain panelists were deeply disturbed by the Ratner project’s
reliance on eminent domain.
DDDB calls on Albany to follow the lead of states like Utah,
whose Governor on March 17 signed into law a bill effectively
banning the use of eminent domain for economic development.
As DDDB’s retained counsel Norman Siegel said, “So
long as the Supreme Court will defer to the states, it is
up to our legislators to take up the challenge in putting
an end to egregious eminent domain abuse.”