Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reverse Robin Hood

From City Journal:

We recently conducted...analysis of 11 locations in the New York metropolitan area (New York City and Long Island) under threat of condemnation as “blighted” or “urban renewal” areas, and thus subject to eminent domain for private development under the court’s ruling. The project areas are in Brooklyn (Atlantic Yards), West Harlem-Manhattanville (the area targeted by Columbia University), Jamaica (Queens), Baldwin and New Cassel (Nassau County, Long Island), and East Harlem—itself home to six urban renewal areas. We found that eminent-domain abuse in New York disproportionately affects ethnic and racial minorities and those less well-off and less educated. The 11 project areas we studied where eminent domain is authorized have a greater percentage of minority residents (92 percent) compared with the counties in which they’re located (57 percent). This disparity is far more pronounced in New York than in our national sample, where 58 percent of project-area residents are minorities, compared with 45 percent in surrounding communities.

Median incomes in New York project areas are considerably less ($21,323.32) than in surrounding areas ($29,880.25). Residents of project areas are more likely to be impoverished (28 percent) than in surrounding communities (17 percent). Forty percent of project-area residents do not have high school diplomas, compared to just 24 percent outside of the project areas. Project-area residents are also far more likely to rent their homes or apartments (87 percent) than residents of surrounding areas (62 percent), and the project areas themselves are more likely to be home to children (28 percent) than surrounding communities (23 percent).

Taken together, the data reveal that especially in New York City, eminent domain falls more heavily on the less affluent—exactly as O’Connor and Thomas predicted it would. Of course, these results do not suggest that local authorities intentionally target these communities for removal. Nonetheless, the data show that local governments wield condemnation against those least equipped to defend their homes and businesses. In effect, New York’s Court of Appeals has endorsed Robin Hood in reverse, taking from the poor to give to the rich.