Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eminent Domain Redux: Downtown Hearings Held (Again)

The city held another hearing yesterday on its plans to seize property for development--including the Underground Railroad homes on Duffield Street--via eminent domain. The repeat hearing was held because the city had to withdraw its original findings because it "mistakenly" failed to enter a blight study into the public record during original an original hearing held in May. In addition to the controversial seizure and planned demolition of homes believed to have been part of the Underground Railroad, the city would also evict 40 families living in rent-stabilized apartments, business with 100 employees, an arts venue and a parking lot. In all, 21 properties are involved on three different blocks.

The epicenter of the controversy is the block on Duffield Street where the Underground Railroad homes would be leveled for an underground garage for 700 cars and a street-level park and plaza known as Willoughby Square. Several major hotels are planned for the block including a 500-room Aloft Hotel and Sheraton and a 22-story hotel called the Indigo. The massive Albee Square development with at least 900 units of housing would also be nearby.

Of the hearing, Sarah Ryley wrote in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that:
City Councilwoman Letitia James said after the hearing, which she called “just procedural in nature,” that she suspected the blight study was created recently as the result of a legal challenge to first ruling in favor of eminent domain. “I did not see a blighted study in 2003,” she said, referring to when City Council was given the opportunity to consider the Downtown Brooklyn plan, including the use of eminent domain to realize that vision.
The new public comment period on the use of eminent domain runs through November 5.

Brooklyn redevelopment faces Underground Railroad conflict [amNY]
City Gives Downtown Brooklyn Eminent Domain Hearing Another Try [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]

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