It was said by liberals of yore – meaning real liberals, not the assorted pseudo-Marxist radicals of today who have stolen that label – that constitutional rights must be afforded to all, because when they are denied to some, sooner or later they will be denied to others. Case in point: the latest [mis]adventure of the Pfizer pharmaceutical company. You may recall that (though it denies it) Pfizer was a moving force behind the wretched Kelo case; involving the New London, Connecticut, Fort Trumbull redevelopment project. The project was initiated (at least in large part) to favor Pfizer and its well-paid professional employees working at its new $300 million research facility located just across the River Thames from the redevelopment site. It displaced lower middle class families to make room for a planned fancy hotel, upscale condos and shopping facilities – none of which are so far being constructed, which is another story on which we have commented earlier.
Now, the tables are being turned in Brooklyn. It appears that a Brooklyn politico has announced his intention to have the city use its eminent domain power to take Pfizer’s Williamsburg plant that is evidently on its last legs, having shed 1000 jobs in the past two years. Pfizer plans to shut it down by the end of the year, and devote its 15-acre site to new housing. See Lee Howard, Eminent Domain Proposal to Grab Pfizer New York Plant. The Day, Feb. 8, 2008. Naturally, Pfizer is huffing and puffing, professing to be puzzled over why the government would want to redevelop Pfizer’s land for housing, something that Pfizer thinks of doing itself. So where does the city get off, says Pfizer, trying to snatch that land and develop it itself (or through its chosen redeveloper)? Good question, but one that has been asked before by other indignant property owners whose protests got them exactly nowhere.
It’s tempting at this point to get involved in disputations about poetic justice, Schadenfreude, whether two wrongs make a right, and all that other good stuff. But we won’t. Suffice it to say that given the political nature of the redevelopment process, to say nothing of the nature of urban politics, particularly in New York, it is far from certain that Pfizer’s property will be taken, and if so, whether it will be taken on terms that it finds disagreeable. We will do our best to follow up this story and keep you posted on developments – if any. Sometimes, condemnation plans are announced but then not implemented for years, and this could be such a case. So stay tuned.