Eminent Domain Not to Be Used in Willets Point

The Wall Street Journal reports that the City of New York is near a deal with the redeveloper of Willets Point and, though it intends to go through with the project in some form, it has abandoned its eminent domain action(s) to take Willets Point land.  Eliot Brown, Deal Is Near to Develop Willets Point, Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2012.  Just how that will be accomplished is not altogether clear, but we will keep an eye on things and keep you posted.

For the WSJ story, click here.

A more detailed explanation comes from The New York Times.  Charles V. Bagli, Zoning Slows Mayor’s Plan to Remake Willets Point, N.Y. Times, May 2, 2012. Click here.

“The proposal for a mix of retail space and housing on 12.75 acres, the first phase of the project, does not conform to existing zoning regulations and will require a new environmental review, public hearings and a journey through New York City’s often treacherous review process.”

The City has formally withdrawn its eminent domain proceedings.

“The problems came to light on Wednesday morning, when city officials notified the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court that a hearing next week on the project was no longer necessary. Local landowners who are opposing the city’s use of eminent domain to gain control of the site have appealed a lower court decision in favor of the Bloomberg administration.”The city said it was withdrawing the bulk of the legal findings on which it based its case for eminent domain. It plans to submit a new set of findings, after the environmental review and the public review. Those, in turn, will almost certainly generate a new lawsuit opposing the project.”

There is bound to be more to this, and we will keep you posted. What is clear is that in New York, as elsewhere, an abandonment of a condemnation action requires the condemmnor to reimburse the property owners for their litigation expenses, including attorneys, appraisers and other expert fees. The prevailing owners’ counsel is Michael Rikon, who is without a doubt New York’s best eminent domain lawyer, and we wish him well on this singular accomplishment.