The New York Court of Appeals today reversed the Columbia "blight" case, Kaur v. New York State Urban Development Corp., No. 125 (June 24, 2010). The unanimous opinion came swiftly (oral arguments were just under a month ago), suggesting it was not a close call for the court. Here's the Appellate Division's opinion.
We haven't had time to digest it, and there certainly will be a round of analysis and opinion on the case, but here's the introductory paragraph of the court's opinion:
In this appeal, we are called upon to determine whether respondent's exercise of its power of eminent domain to acquire petitioners' property for the development of a new Columbia University campus was supported by a sufficient public use, benefit or purpose (see New York Const art I, § 7 [a]; Eminent Domain Procedure Law 207 [C] ). We answer this question in the affirmative and conclude, pursuant to our recent holding in Matter of Goldstein v New York State Urban Dev. Corp. (13 NY3d 511 ), that the Empire State Development Corporation's ("ESDC") findings of blight and determination that the condemnation of petitioners' property qualified as a "land use improvement project" were rationally based and entitled to deference. We also conclude that the alternative finding of "civic purpose," likewise, had a rational basis.
Slip op. at 1-2.
The court's recent opinion in the Atlantic Yards case (Goldstein) was always going to be this case's biggest hurdle. But Kaur's posture and the developed record were thought to perhaps distinguish it from Goldstein. Not so.
You've got to wonder whether there are any limits on eminent domain in New York. Today, it looks like there are not.