Thursday, February 25, 2010

Blight is now a city planning tool

From City Journal:

In New York, this creative definition of blight is the new central-planning model. Consultants have also cited “underutilization” in West Harlem, where the city’s Economic Development Corporation wants to take land from private owners and hand it to Columbia University for an expansion project. Says Norman Siegel, who represents the owners: “A private property owner has the right to determine the best productive use of his property. It’s not a right to be ceded to any government.”

And in Queens, the Bloomberg administration is preparing a similar argument to grab swaths of Willets Point, an area adjacent to Citi Field that’s populated with auto-repair shops. The city’s recent “request for qualifications” from would-be developers drew a sharp response from the people who owned the land: “We . . . hold the most significant qualification of all: we own the properties. We are motivated to improve and use our own properties, consistent with the American free market system. We would have done so in spectacular fashion already, had the city upheld its end of the bargain by providing our neighborhood with essential services and infrastructure.” Instead, the city has done the opposite, letting streets disintegrate into ditches to bolster its blight finding. The perversity is astonishing: rather than doing its own job of maintaining public infrastructure and public safety, the government wants to do the private sector’s job—and is going about it by starving that private sector of public resources.