Can Something Good Come From the Spitzer Affair?

By now you may be getting tired of the Eliott Spitzer affair, and if so, who could blame you? But even if so, bear with us a bit longer. It turns out that this saga isn’t all about fancy interstate shtupping and political scandal. It may have an eminent domain angle to it. Doesn’t everything?

It turns out that David Paterson, the New York Lieutenant Governor who replaces Spitzer on Monday, is not what you might call a cheerleader for the use of eminent domain. He has a track record of opposing its indiscriminate use. According to the New York Sun (Peter Kiefer, Paterson Could Derail Development — Opposes the Use of Eminent Domain, March 14, 2008), Paterson opposes the use of eminent domain for redevelopment. Back in 2005 when the Kelo case came down, Paterson, then a state senator,  led a rally on the steps of New York City Hall, protesting that decision and favoring the imposition of a moratorium on the use of eminent domain in New York.

Needless to say, this development has sent shivers down the spines of New York redevelopers, and Columbia University has announced that when it comes to land acquisition, it has the soul of a pussy cat, hoping to reach an agreement with the owners of the properties included within the area of Columbia’s proposed expansion. As for Paterson, he  ain’t talkin’ — according to The Sun, his spokesman was “unavailable for comment.”

Much as we would love to see some political rain fall on New York’s redevelopment parade, we aren’t popping any champagne corks just yet. Many a time we have seen politicians talk a good game about issues of the day, only to be born again once they wound up in a position in which they were able to do something. Still, this one would be too delicious for words. The courts never tire of telling us that the decision to condemn is political, so it would be only proper under the law if New York’s love affair with eminent domain pursued in the name of redevlopment, were to cool off for political reasons.