State Constitution

Exercising Eminent Domain for Economic Development in New York by Alex Racketa

Introduction The law of eminent domain in New York is an area characterized by its lack of clarity.   How cities and municipal corporations operate within the limitation imposed by the phrase “public use” is a particularly complicated area.  Recently, they have begun to assert a more expansive interpretation of this phrase, following the national trend of broadly reading the U.S. Constitution in cases like Berman v. Parker and Kelo v. City of New London.[1] However, the U.S. Constitution is only one constraint on the eminent domain power.  The New York Constitution functions as a separate limit.[2] However, rather than explicitly rule on the independent vitality of restrictions in the New York Constitution, the Court of Appeals has repeatedly reserved judgment on the issue.  This has left open the question of whether New York recognizes the economic development as a public use, as the Supreme Court has declared the U.S. Constitution permits.[3] Because the Court of Appeals has not ruled on this point, significant confusion has resulted.  Any independent limitation on the eminent domain power retained in the state constitution has essentially been rendered meaningless.  This uncertainty is itself damaging to private property interests within the state. The Case for Not [read more]