Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #32: Is Eminent Domain's Full Cost Being Reckoned and Paid For? NO

This is evaluation item #32 (of 47) of the Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card

Is Eminent Domain Being Used in a Way That the Full Cost of it Is Reckoned and Paid For? NO

Jane Jacobs was not 100% per cent against the use of eminent domain but her thinking involved giving its use a very high degree of scrutiny and she put forth several separate standards to apply before resorting to its use. Jacobs asserted that if eminent domain was used, the full actual value of what was being supplanted should be paid for. Probably this is an appropriate standard for social justice, especially when privately used land is being taken to be given over to another private owner for a use, which as is the case of Atlantic Yards, might even be the same use. However, there was another prime reason to require that full value be paid: so that the vitality and viability of that which must be supplanted will not be quashed but will be able to move and locate elsewhere without diminishment. She thereby sought to preserve diversity. Lastly, paying full value supported achievement of another standard, which is that the public should not use eminent domain without being fully cognizant of the actual economic trade-offs underlying the decision.

The law has not changed since Jane Jacobs' time so that payment of full value as she proposed is not required and would not be done in the case of Atlantic Yards. Jacobs spoke of paying for such things as businesses' "good will" and the value of relationships and intricacies that had been built up over time. She did not mention, but might have, that part of what condemned landowners in the Atlantic Yards footprint will lose and will not be compensated for is the reasonable expectation that their property would be the subject of an upzoning. It is quite reasonable to assume that absent Atlantic Yards the public would attempt to upgrade this area by allowing and encouraging additional development (in a more gradual mixed way Jacobs would have approved) by upzoning these properties. With Atlantic Yards, this will not occur. Instead, the Ratner organization will be attempting to acquire these properties at values reflecting low FARs associated with their current zoning. (Or even far below as recent disclosures show.) Then the Ratner Organization (rather than these owners) will, through the effects of a zoning override permitting massively more development, get substantially more value from this property than the organization paid for it.

JJ Cites: [(P)ublic subsidies for land clearance or spot clearance are far from the only subsides, Involuntary subsidies, immense in the aggregate, go into these enterprises too. . . . This use of eminent domain does more than physically possible the assembly of project tracts. It also makes them financially possible, owing to the involuntary subsidy entailed. P. 311 The community as a whole should bear the expense of community progress and that cost should not be imposed upon the unfortunate victims of community progress. P. 312 In cases where powers of eminent domain were used, the purchase prices should include the realistic, full costs . . .The purpose of paying, rather that exacting unjust involuntary subsidies, would be to avoid killing off city diversity gratuitously. To have to pay would, on the other hand make it realistically possible for dislocated enterprises to relocate and continue to live (preferably in the neighborhood) and would, on the other hand, enforce selectivity- - allowing that which is worth more to remain. P. 331, 332]

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