In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that prohibited the state from using eminent domain to take property in the 17-acre expansion zone west of Broadway, known as Manhattanville, without the owners’ consent. The ruling held that the courts must give deference to the state’s determination that the area was “blighted” and that condemnation on behalf of a university served a public purpose, two ways that the project could qualify for eminent domain under state law.
This decision allows Columbia to proceed with its $6.3 plan to expand its campus far into Harlem.
In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Kelo v. New London, that states could use eminent domain to transfer property from one private owner to another for redevelopment.
Back in December, a lower court ruled that Columbia couldn’t use eminent domain—generally the power of the state to appropriate property within the state for public use—to fuel its expansion.
Owners of the property Columbia wishes to appropriate say they plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.