Thursday, October 28, 2010

Perkins steps up against eminent domain abuse

From the Columbia Spectator:

As opponents to Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion seek to get their case heard before the nation’s highest court, one prominent Harlem politician has officially stepped into the fray.

State Senator Bill Perkins urged the United States Supreme Court to accept the case by filing an amicus brief with the court on Oct. 25—a document, literally meaning “friend of the court,” written by a party not directly related to the litigation, but who has an interest in the case under consideration.

Perkins, a Harlem representative opposed to the use of eminent domain for Columbia’s campus, has long been an advocate of reforming New York state laws concerning eminent domain—the process by which the state can seize private property for “public use” in exchange for market-rate compensation. New York State Eminent Domain Procedure Law lacks transparency, accountability, and a set of explicitly defined terms, according to Perkins. As one of the few, if only, local politicians vocally against the University’s use of eminent domain for its construction, he has argued that the current state laws are rigged in favor of condemnors, who use the system’s ill-defined language and numerous loopholes to unlawfully seize private property.

“We’ve been concerned with questions of eminent domain and its abuse, and this is a case we think is significant in that regard, especially in terms of what is meant by ‘public use,’” said Perkins, who has held a series of eminent domain hearings across the state of New York in an effort to garner support for reform of the laws, but has been unable to get a bill passed in the state legislature. “When the door to the legislative process is hard to get through, there’s always the judicial process.”