Honestly, could anything be worse for America's fourth largest city than the New Jersey Nets? According to the New York Court of Appeals, it's a positively good thing that hundreds of people will be thrown out of their homes, to make way for a basketball team that has no fans.
A group of tenants and owners claim the seizure is unconstitutional. They argue that developer Bruce Ratner's proposed $4.9 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards project mainly enriches private interests, while the state constitution requires public use for taking land.
"The constitution accords government broad power to take and clear substandard and insanitary areas for redevelopment," Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wrote for the majority. "In so doing, it commensurately deprives the judiciary of grounds to interfere with the exercise."
It's worth noting that the commission charged with gifting 22 acres of prime real estate in New York City to billionaire Bruce Ratner found the area to be only "mildly blighted," and therefore proper for eminent domain. Like a yard that hasn't been mowed in two weeks. Or a vast vacant lot in New London Connecticut.
The Court of Appeals essentially holds that its hands are tied when some bureaucrat writes the words "blight" and "public benefit" somewhere in the same order. New York's courts won't protect anyone from loss of property if the magic words are used.
Personally, I find the thoughts of the lone dissenting Justice, Robert Smith, more persuasive. Justice Smith seems to think that courts should actually look at the facts and evidence before allowing the state to seize people's homes. He seems to recognize that, shockingly enough, bureaucrats and well-connected land thieves actually read court opinions, and might know that if they want to take someone's property, all they have to do is mouth the proper formulas.
Even if what they want to do with the land will only create a larger blight.