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Democratic Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky Led Bi-partisan Two-year Effort


Unanimously Passed Law Requires Individual Notification of Property Owners

New York's property owners will no longer be subject to sneak-attack eminent domain. On September 14, Governor George E. Pataki signed into law a bill that requires individual notification of property owners when their property is going to be condemned. The passage of the legislation was the result of a successful two-year effort led by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky (Dem., Elmsford), who chairs the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Corporations, and Senator Vincent L. Liebell (Rep./Cons. - Brewster). Both houses of the legislature approved eminent domain notification reform unanimously in 2003, but Gov. Pataki vetoed the bill on the advice of State Attorney General Elliott Spitzer that it would be too expensive for agencies to comply. This year Mr. Brodsky proposed a compromise to reduce the cost of notification. The Assembly passed the bill unanimously on June 3 and the Senate on the last day of session, June 22.

Before the passage of the reform, the only "notification" that property owners received before the actual condemnation was the formal notice of the public hearing buried in the legal section in fine print in the back of the local newspaper. Without advance personal notice, property owners often did not know in time that the all-important hearing required by eminent domain law was to take place. As a result, they could not raise issues giving them the right to protest the condemnation. What remained for relief, or perhaps delay, was the unusual circumstance that a fatal technical mistake was made in the process required by the eminent domain law. Otherwise the only way the property owner could, in a sense, dispute the eminent domain was by litigating the price to be paid. But disputing the price does not stop the condemnation.

With the amended law, notices of the impending condemnation must be mailed to all property owners at the addresses listed on the local real estate tax assessment roll. This will alert the property owner to the right to raise issues, facts and objections at the public hearing and of the fact that the only way to challenge the condemnation will be on the basis of concerns established at this hearing.

In addition, under the amended law, a brief synopsis of the report of the findings of the public hearing will also be mailed to each property owner, advising the owner that a full summary will be provided for free and disclosing the route for judicial review. In that way, property owners will be formally kept abreast of whatever rights they may have to challenge the eminent domain itself in court on grounds established in the public hearing.

"The eminent domain issue transcends party," remarked Jim Malatras, Legislative Director for Mr. Brodsky, during October. "It's a matter of fairness and justice."

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