Lowball Watch – New York

Remember the Didden case? Of course you do. That was the scandalous case from — where else? — New York in which Bart Didden was about to develop his land, when he was approached by a redeveloper selected by the Village of Port Chester. That worthy, according to Didden’s complaint, demanded a payment of $800,000 and a partnership share in Didden’s project. Barring that, went the “offer,” the Village of Port Chester would take Didden’s land and give it to the redeveloper. When Didden refused to go along with this “offer” the Village filed a condemnation action a couple of days later, and took Didden’s land.

Didden sued in federal court, complaining that this was not a taking for public use, but rather an act of extortion, but their Lordships on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit saw nothing wrong with this way of doing business, and denied relief. You can read all about it in Didden v. Village of Port Chester, 173 Fed.Appx. 391, 2006 U.S.App. LEXIS 8653.

Now comes the day of economic reckoning. The Didden case has just gone through a valuation trial before a judge (no juries are allowed in N.Y. eminent domain cases), and the results are, shall we say, interesting.

The bottom line of the state trial court’s decision issued on April 2, 2010, is an award of $3,062,000 as against the Village’s earlier deposit of $975,000. You can read about it in In re the Village of Port Chester, etc. , 2010 N.Y.Misc. LEXIS 641. It’s a lengthy, extremely detailed decision, so we recommend a stiff drink before you plunge into it.

That makes the award over three times the amount of the city’s deposit, not counting the accrued interest going back to 2004. We are not sure, but we seem to recall that in New York interest accrues at the rate of 6%. You do the math.

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