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Supreme Court Kelo v. New London Decision Arouses Groundswell of Outrage

ASSEMBLYMAN RICHARD L. BRODSKY INTRODUCES EMINENT DOMAIN BILL

New Legislation Would Build on Legislator's Successful Eminent Domain Reform Effort

Responding quickly to the groundswell of anger at the unjust treatment of homeowners in the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo v. New London eminent domain decision, New York State Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky introduced legislation during July to reform New York's eminent domain law. The bill, known as the Eminent Domain Reform Act, extends more broadly than the important legislation that he saw enacted last year.

Since taking the reins as Chairman of the Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, Mr. Brodsky has brought to light a great deal of corruption of public authorities and thereby revealed the need for fundamental reform. His eminent domain bill that was signed into law last year requires that property owners receive personal notification of the planned condemnation of their property in time for them to assert their rights during the hearing process. Previously, the only advance information was a general project notice buried in the legal section of the newspaper. His new bill is designed to further change New York's eminent domain process by broadening protections for property owners and ensuring fair treatment and adequate compensation to citizens.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, the new legislation focuses on the injustice of condemning private property for economic development and transferring the property to other private parties. Under the first part of the bill, the timeframe during which property owners can appeal decisions to condemn would be increased from 30 to 90 days, and the owners would also be allowed to appeal the condemnation decision when the scope of the project is substantially changed. Under the second part of the bill, the local government would have to use a public planning process to develop a comprehensive economic development plan for the affected area and then vote the plan into law. The local government would also have to prepare a homeowner impact assessment statement, comparing the harm to the affected property owners to the reasonably expected community benefits, and justify the taking of the private property. Most importantly, the bill would increase compensation to homeowners to a minimum of 150 percent of the fair market value and include compensation for displaced residents.

The third portion of the bill has the potential for the most impact. It would create a temporary commission to examine constitutional and legislative standards to reform the eminent domain procedure where private homeowners are affected by condemnation for economic development.


By Carol W. LaGrasse, July 2005

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