A recent court decision, which says New York state cannot use eminent domain on behalf of Columbia University to help it acquire land for construction, marks a significant setback for the school’s plans to expand on the Upper West Side.
The appeals court’s ruling overturned last year’s decision giving the green light for the property takeover that would allow the Ivy League institution to implement its $6.28 billion campus expansion plan that includes 16 new buildings, among them dormitories and science facilities, according to TheUptowner.org.
The court ruled that the state’s designation of the neighborhood bordered by Broadway, Riverside Drive, 129th and 133rd Streets as "blighted,"—the main prerequisite for eminent domain—was not sufficiently proven, according to media reports.
Numerous community groups and individuals, including local business owners, opposed the expansion plans, but the decision surprised many of them nonetheless.
Nicholas Sprayregen, the owner of several self-storage warehouses in the Manhattanville area who refused to sell to the university, told The New York Times he was always "cautiously optimistic," because "I was aware we were going against 50 years of unfair cases against property owners."
Meanwhile, representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation, the agency that approved the use of eminent domain, criticized the court’s ruling and vowed to appeal the decision.