Mythsmasher: Columbia University Obtains Eminent Domain Land Grab in Harlem By Richard Cooper
First published by GroundReport and reprinted with express permission.
As reported in my alma mater Columbia University's newspaper, Columbia Daily Spectator, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) unanimously voted to authorize seizure by eminent domain of two commercial properties in New York City's Manhattanville section (also known as West Harlem). As a Libertarian activist for property rights and a Columbia alumnus, I find this doubly disheartening but not surprising. To see the ESDC side with powerful businesses and institutions is to see the norm.
Gas stations owned by the Singh family and a storage facility owned by Nick Sprayregen (pictured), also owner of Rising Publications' Yonkers-based Home News & Times weekly newspaper, will be taken by legalized theft at the expense of the taxpayer. The ESDC was politically smart in leaving out the residential properties. Businesses as such do not vote.
The Columbia Daily Spectator article above quotes Harlem politician Bill Perkins who correctly describes the issue "'If I give you my money after you put a gun to my head, that doesn’t mean I voluntarily gave you the money,' State Senator Bill Perkins said, implying that residents would leave the area against their will due to the effects of the expansion. “The word voluntary is perhaps not the appropriate way to ask that question.'" I wish he would be consistent about this when it comes to coercing the taxpayer into funding the welfare state measures he supports. But if you want consistency, vote Libertarian.
Quite aside from the troubled relationship the university has had with its neighbors, the land grab shows the notions that Libertarians regard as fallacious: legalized theft by eminent domain; the state as an initiator or facilitator of economic development; state economic and urban planning; and the entanglement of the state with education.
Previously, I was joined by other Columbia Libertarian alumni in condemning Columbia's deceitful policy of land condemnation in Harlem. As is usual with such schemers, they denied they intended to use eminent domain, "except as a last resort."
"Columbia University Eminent Domain In Harlem Condemned By Libertarian Alumni"
In New York we saw the New York Times grab an entire city block for its headquarters in the eminent domain scheme I called "Time$cam: New York Times Building Climbers Protest Wrong."
New York City is moving to hand over property from one owner to another in Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards and Queen's Willets Point sections. Across upstate New York is the NYRI, New York Regional Interconnect electric power transmission line. This is a a worldwide phenomenon with widespread abuse in China. "Female Chinese Land Seizure Protesters Stripped Naked and Jailed ."
The philosophy of Columbia's President Lee Bollinger and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, like that of their minions and cronies must be confronted and exposed in the schools, the election campaigns and the media. What is needed is to embrace the philosophy of individual liberty, personal responsibility, free markets and private property rights. Only then can the residents and businesses of Harlem, New York, America and the world be truly safe from legalized theft.
Richard Cooper is a international trade executive with a manufacturing firm on Long Island, New York, USA. He is active in the Libertarian Party on eminent domain and other issues. He was chair of the Libertarian Party of New York.