Kelo v. New London: Scandalous Updates

Based on my casual conversations with folks who are familar with Kelo v. New London (the case in which the Supreme Court claimed governments can take private property from one private entity and give it to another), few folks who are outraged by the Court did are familar with the particulars of the case itself.

This in some cases may be a good thing, as people who follow what the City of New London does to its residents may suffer dangerous bouts of high blood pressure.

BizzyBlog, however, takes the risk and follows the case, saying, “the national inattention to the day-to-day happenings in the Kelo case in Connecticut continues to baffle me, as it appears to be headed towards an epic confrontation.”

Personally, I think the mainstream press doesn’t care (except perhaps the New York Times, which cheers theft of this nature, being practictioners of it themselves), and most of the property rights and anti-judicial activism folks have simply been preoccupied with other matters in recent months.

So, as I public service, I’m listing links to Bizzy’s posts on this, oldest first. If you are in a rush, just read the top one — it says a lot.

So What If You Own It? Pay Us Rent
Theft Defended
Promise? What Promise?
Government Forces Fight Amongst Themselves I
Government Forces Fight Amongst Themselves II
Soap Opera I
Soap Opera II
As New London Turns
A Surprise Resignation

(By the way, don’t blame Bizzy for the link titles — I found it impossible to read Bizzy’s links and not want to editorialize, and as such was rather free about the link names.)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the New York Times’ use of eminent domain, here’s coverage of the matter from the National Center’s book Shattered Dreams: One Hundred Stories of Government Abuse:

New York Times Says Jump, New York Government Says How High?Executives at The New York Times began to rumble that the newspaper would begin moving its workers to offices outside the city if the Times could not find a new building. In response, in December 2001, city and state authorities gave the newspaper a giant property located at the outskirts of Times Square for a new 52-story headquarters. Many consider it a “sweetheart deal” to keep the newspaper happy.

However, neither the city nor the state own the land they gave away. It is privately-owned: 11 buildings on the site house approximately 30 businesses. Officials are using the power of eminent domain to evict the current tenants in an action that contradicts the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allows the use of eminent domain only for “public use” with “just compensation.”

Specifically, on December 13, 2001, New York Governor George Pataki announced that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) would condemn land on Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets for the Times’ new building. The paper is set to pay $85.6 million for it; a price that Massachusetts Institute of Technology real estate professor W. Tod McGrath says is “at least a 25 percent discount.” Sidney Orbach, the co-owner of one of the buildings slated to be condemned, backs up this estimate. He points out that a smaller building across from his recently sold for $111 million.

Speaking on how the condemnation destroys his investment, Orbach told Reason magazine: “I would have said this couldn’t happen in the United States. [My building] used to be a factory building, and we totally converted it to an office building. It became a very, very desirable place. We just want to keep the building. We’ve put a lot of money, energy and sweat into this. I am now sitting with a tremendous amount of vacancy because no one wants to rent space that has a good chance of being condemned.” Worse, Scripps-Howard columnist Deroy Murdock has reported that the ESDC told tenants in August that they should send their rent payments to the state rather than landlords like Orbach from now on – making it hard for the owners to meet mortgage payments because the lack of rental income.

Among those businesses likely to be displaced is Arnold Hatters, which has been on the block since 1960. Mark Rubin, whose father began the business that he now manages, said: “As far as I can remember, this has always been our family’s breadbasket. I think it’s atrocious that, for the sake of a private corporation like The New York Times, somebody has the right to take it away from us.”

The book Shattered Dreams was published in 2003. If you are willing to read a PDF copy, you can get it free here.

Addendum 11-14-05: An interesting email and link to more on Kelo:

Hi Amy:I read your article saying that few are following up on Kelo in New London. I am! I am writing an article on Kelo for the November 2006, Stetson Law Review. A draft is linked below. I update this regularly, including news from New London.

Do you know what the real story is? The real story is that, no matter what they do in New London or in Connecticut to change the law, no law enforcement agency is willing, any longer, to physically go in and remove people from housing for eminent domain. From what I can tell, that seems to be the informal policy now throughout the U.S. Not one police agency has gone in post-Kelo to remove people from housing, even though Kelo gave them the right.

Now let’s move on to this law:

No individual shall be involuntarily deprived of housing.


John Ryskamp

Ryskamp, John Henry, “Kelo, Lawrence and the New Right to Housing Under the New Due Process” (November 2, 2005).

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