Eminent domain in NYC; Remembering Paul Samuelson, Thomas Hoving


Paul Samuelson is known to most college graduates for his popular textbook on economics. I recorded variations of his classic line in Newsweek on September 19, 1966: “Wall Street indexes predicted nine out of the last five recessions.”

Thoms P. F. Hoving was a well-known New York City figure, serving as parks commissioner and as director of the Metroplitan Museum of Art. Although the New York Times has an article on “Remembering Hoving’s Service as Parks Commissioner”, there is no mention anywhere of Hoving’s memorable line — calling pigeons “rats with wings.”


Eminent domain has been discussed here before, but now Monday’s New York Times weighs in with an editorial. As always, it’s for the wrong side:

Eminent Domain in New York
Published: December 13, 2009
A New York State appellate court has misguidedly put a roadblock in the way of Columbia University’s expansion plans, ruling that the state misused eminent domain to help Columbia assemble the land it needs. This decision conflicts with the relevant law and will make it much harder for the university to move ahead with a project that would benefit the surrounding neighborhood and the entire city.
The decision is completely out of step with eminent domain law, including a recent 6-to-1 decision from the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. That court ruled that Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, a commercial development, can use eminent domain to secure land to build new housing and a basketball arena for the Nets. That was the right decision, and the case for Columbia is even stronger.

Oh, New York Times, how could you not mention a tiny conflict of interest?

Bruce Ratner is the Nets owner who’s the force behind the Atlantic Yards. He also helped build an office building across from the Port Authority for the New York Times. The land for Ratner’s New York Times building was taken through eminent domain. The New York Times–a private company–used the state’s power of eminent domain to take someone’s property.

You mention that in this “eminent domain” editorial because doing so would be honest!

In my opinion (not the opinion of the paper of record), a person’s property is sacred. Eminent domain should be used sparingly for public projects such as roads and bridges. Eminent domain should not be used to help private interests on the theory that they can use that property better than the current owner.

The little guy won (if the right to one’s own property is a “win”–it cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs to defend himself) and the New York Times roots against him. Who says liberals look out for the rights of the little guy?

If New York City really wants to use eminent domain for a public purpose, take over the NY Times building and the UN building and make ’em into apartments at the market rate!