Monday, December 22, 2008
Columbia project receives approval from ESDC
Last week the New York Empire State Development Corporation approved Columbia's project plan. The approval clears the path for Columbia to invoke the state's power of eminent domain to acquire property from the two remaining business owners in the 17 acre area, although approval is still needed from the Public Authorities Control Board. One of the holdouts, Nick Sprayregen, who owns Tuck-It-Away storage, has pledged to challenge the use of eminent domain in court. He believes that Columbia unfairly created blight in the project area by buying up properties and failing to maintain them, and that it would work a further unfairness to award Columbia with the use of eminent domain for this behavior. Moreover, Sprayregen has suggested that conflicts of interest exist between Columbia and Empire State Development Corporation that cast doubt on the propriety of ESDC's project approvals. A state court ruling from this summer supports Sprayregen's claims somewhat; although that case involved a freedom of information law request, the judge made clear that there was a conflict of interest present when a private consultant, AKRF, was working on ESDC's blight study at the same time that it was helping to prepare the general project plan for Columbia.