Court of Appeals Legal Brief

April 29, 2010

Tuck-It-Away Legal Brief to the Court of Appeals

Please note: New York’s highest court – the Court of Appeals – will hear this case on Tuesday, June 1st at 2 p.m.

Fox and Friends Television Interview December 15th, 2009

December 15, 2009

http://video.aol.co.uk/video-detail/fox-and-friends-fox-and-friends-rare-victory/475599108

Front Page New York Times Coverage – Dec 4, 2009

December 11, 2009

NYT Art – Pr Vers – Court Bars New Yorks Takeover of Land for Columbia Campus – 12.4.09

Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Tuck-It-Away

December 4, 2009

Majority Opinion TIA vs ESDC

Important Court of Appeals Hearing

November 13, 2009

On Tuesday November 17th, at 2 pm, New York’s highest court will hear the appeal by the state of our twice-won victory over their refusal to disclose documents. We have been fighting over this FOIL request for years at this point. Stay tuned.

NY Daily News Article

January 22, 2009

Opponents to Columbia expansion fight state’s push to take land

Thursday, January 22nd 2009, 12:57 AM

A holdout in Columbia University‘s $6 billion West Harlem expansion is challenging the state’s ability to seize property from businesses that refuse to budge.

Tuck-it-Away Self Storage filed suit in Manhattan Wednesday against the Empire State Development Corp. to contest the agency’s December approval of the project, which opened the door to the use of eminent domain to acquire land.

“The state and Columbia had a chance to resolve this, but they chose not to,” said Norman Siegel, a lawyer for Tuck-It-Away owner Nicholas Sprayregen. “So the battle lines have been drawn.”

Columbia, which plans to spread a new campus across 17 acres in Manhattanville, stands to take over four properties owned by Sprayregen as well as those owned by one other holdout.

“This is an abuse of power by the state and Columbia,” Siegel said. “We’re vigorously challenging it.”

Columbia says the project will create 6,000 university jobs, top research centers, 1,200 construction jobs over a 25-year period and new homes for several of its schools.

Warner Johnston, a spokesman for the state, declined to comment on the suit.

The state’s report described the largely industrial area designated for Columbia’s expansion as “blighted” and suffering from “lack of development and disinvestment.” The university already owns 76% of the properties in the area, the suit says, with the city owning or having control over another 15%.

Columbia is also facing resistance from a family that owns two area gas stations.

jmartinez@edit.nydailynews.com

NY Observer Article: Columbia Expansion Holdout Sues to Block Eminent Domain

January 21, 2009

Columbia Expansion Holdout Sues To Block Eminent Domain

Nick Sprayregen in the summer of 2008.
Nick Sprayregen in the summer of 2008.
The owner of a set of storage buildings in West Harlem, Nick Sprayregen, has filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s use of eminent domain, he said this afternoon. The state has commenced actions to acquire the properties in connection with Columbia University’s planned 17-acre expansion in the area.

In Mr. Sprayregen’s 107-page petition, he challenged the state’s actions as unconstitutional, alleging the development is not intended for civic use. The petition claims that the area is not blighted, as required by law; that the studies demonstrating blight were highly flawed; and that the public approval process was rigged.

Among other claims, Mr. Sprayregen, the owner of Tuck-it-Away Storage, said that the city and state collaborated secretly more than five years ago to determine a strategy for the project, and quotes email excerpts that suggest some skepticism on the part of a city official about the process.

“Where a development agency colluded with a developer to drive out businesses,” the petition says, “vacate buildings, and then run them down, and then hired the developer’s own consultant to give the agency the basis for a blight finding, this case raises the questions of the proper limit of judicial deference to agency determinations.”

More from the petition [also see below]:

This case is about the abuse of the government’s power of eminent domain to secure for a developer a contested area of West Harlem it had long sought to control and for which it had formed a fully blown plan. This case is about the secret collaboration between ESDC and New York City agencies in a complex plan to give that developer, an elite private university, everything it wanted, without compromise or limitation, while evading public review and accountability. This case is about favoritism shown to an elite private university over community interests, clearly and consistently expressed through the local Community Planning Board … And this case is about how ESDC, in its determination to maximize Columbia’s private benefit, overreached its statutory authorization, made findings in bad faith, and fabricated pretextual purposes to cover up the illegality of its dominant purpose.

 

 

Eminent domain law in New York tends to afford the state a large amount of power, at least relative to other states, so it seems safe to assume Mr. Sprayregen has an uphill fight on his hands.

NYT Article – State Officials Approve Expansion by Columbia

December 19, 2008

 By: Corey Kilgannon and Stacey Stowe

 19columbia.html?ref=nyregion

Comprehensive Article from Weekly Standard – Columbia University, Slumlord

December 1, 2008

By: Jonathan Last, December 8, 2008

NYS Court Hearing Today –

October 16, 2008

The hearing was adjourned from October 16th to October 23rd.

We MUST Show Our Outrage

October 8, 2008

Folks – its real important that we all know what we are up against. Eminent domain abuse is the ugliest violation of civil rights being perpetuated today by an unholy alliance between rogue segments of our government and some of the largest and most unethical private entities in our country.

We need to join together in the fight between West Harlem and the state of New York and Columbia University and send a message. Eminent domain abuse stops HERE! NOW! EVERYWHERE!

Please sign the petition.

Village Voice – Everyone Listens to Columbia’s Disaster Expert – Except Columbia

October 1, 2008

By: Elizabeth Dwoskin, October 1, 2008

village-voice-print-vers-everyone-listens-to-columbias-disaster-expert-except-columbia-itself-10108

NY Times: 2 Gas Stations, and a Family’s Resolve, Confront Columbia Expansion Plan

September 23, 2008

By: Timothy Williams, September 21, 2008

Some Recent Comments from the Petition

September 19, 2008

As I have written before, I am truly astonished at the emotion in so many of your comments. I would like to share just a few here, (without using any names).

 At least once in a generation we are reminded, in such conspicuous fashion, that WE MUST continue to resist these bullying encroachments of our basic property ownership rights. This is a watershed case. We are all compelled to stand behind Nick in his efforts to make a difference for all of us, especially those less profiled and seemingly without a representative voice.

 Forty nine years ago in Cuba, a small group of individuals determined that it served “the greater good” to take property, business, money and homes from people who had worked all their lives to accomplish what they earned. This was how and why my family came to this country.
No private institution has the right to use the government to meet their ends at the peril of the citizens, regardless of who they are and what they represent they will do for the “community”
Eminent Domain IS WRONG.

As a student of Columbia, I have to say I am not proud of my University’s action’s. I and many other students are doing all we can to direct the university’s attention to the serious ethical errors that Columbia is making in pursuing a dog-eat-dog worldview on this expansion. Very unsettling moment in our school’s history.

My family moved to Harlem in May of 1986. I have seen the ups and downs of Harlem. When we moved here, my parents were told that banks did not lend to homeowners in Harlem. We did not receive the same quality of service that other communities received, i. e. adequate garbage pick up, poor mail service and no police support. We were even told that were were not really Manhattan residents even though we share the same island.

Now everyone enjoys what Harlem has to offer (the beautiful architecture, rich, diverse culture, great food and entertainment) and wants to know why did “they” destroy it. People constantly ask why do “they” treat their neighborhoods this way. When the City refuses to treat all of it’s citizens fairly and equally, people rebel. Harlem was bought back to it’s splendor by “they,” the people that have lived here through the good and bad times. Utilizing community outreach and development programs initiated by community activist that refused to let the heritage of Harlem fade away, like so many other culturally rich communities in New York, making Harlem one of the crown jewels of New York City, again.

But Columbia University never wanted to consider itself apart of the Harlem community. Now it wants to rape the community of its communal spaces, housing and businesses to expand its private institution that most residents in the area cannot afford to attend and are not even offered an opportunity to do so. And what does Columbia offer in return – NOTHING. The small trinkets the University believes it is giving the community is long over due and should have been done years ago. The residents do not want something for nothing, WE WANT TO BE TREATED WITH THE SAME RESPECT AND DIGINITY AS ANY OTHER COMMUNITY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

Nick’s Newest Op-Ed: “The Eminent Domain Game is Rigged”

September 19, 2008

Appearing in the New York Daily News, September 18, 2008

Please Sign the Petition Now!

September 16, 2008

To sign the petition, just click the “Comments” link on the lower right, then scroll down to “Leave a Reply.” Fill in the required information and click “Submit Comment.” Thank you so much for your support.

We, the undersigned, object to the use of eminent domain in the Columbia University Expansion Plan.

First, Manhattanville is not a blighted community and Eminent Domain is not needed to stimulate economic development or to eliminate blight.

Second, The Columbia Plan has been developer driven and developed principally to benefit Columbia. The taking of private property and transfering it to Columbia, a private institution, is unconstitutional and illegal because it does not constitute a “public use” and is without a dominant public purpose.

Third, since Columbia now owns over 80% of the property in the affected area and will have control over 96% of the area, Eminent Domain is not necessary or appropriate to attain any legitimate public purpose in Manhattanville.

By signing our names below, we, individually and collectively, say NO to the use of Eminent Domain in the Columbia Expansion Plan in West Harlem/Manhattanville.

NEW POST: New AP Poll Shows Overwhelming Majority Against Kelo Decision

September 16, 2008

In a new poll from the Associated Press, (AP), an overwhelming 75% of those polled were against the slim 5-4 majority decision in 2005 by the US Supreme Court allowing the use of eminent domain for economic expansion.

We cannot merely hope that judges start seeing the light. We need to send them a signal. Please sign our petition – we need to band together on this fight. We must do it – the politicians will not – it is up to us.

AP Poll

Government Bad Faith

September 14, 2008

As we have reported, already two NYS courts have come down hard on the conflict of interest caused by the state hiring the same consultant as Columbia had already retained.  In other words, this firm, AKRF, which had already been under contract to Columbia to ADVOCATE ON ITS BEHALF was then hired by the state to perform the (theoretically unbaised) “blight study” – the necessary ingredient  before the ESDC can start condemnation proceedings. 

This unholy alliance only was found out by our attorneys, led by Norman Siegel, through our numerous (and costly) Freedom of Information Law requests. 

It is our belief that on the basis of this conflict alone, the courts should throw out the entire condemnation process. We may soon be asking the courts to do just this.

The ESDC Hearings – The Height of Cynicism

September 13, 2008

Two weeks ago the Empire State Development Corporation, (ESDC – the state agency that Columbia is “renting” to threaten condemnation), held the legally required hearings in West Harlem ostensibly to “hear the people”. There were four hearings over the course of two days. Believe it or not – not a single director of the corporation thought it important enough to come to the hearings. Not a single person. Not a single hearing. Furthermore, in all likelihood, we believe that the directors probably have never even bothered to come to Manhattanville to see for themselves the so-called “blight”.  They are hypocrites!.

We Once Again Ask Everyone –

September 12, 2008

read all the incredible comments from so many people; this is NOT about us; its about everyone. we need to keep together on this issue and then spread the word.

To read the comments: scroll down a bit to SIGN THE PETITION AND STOP THE ABUSE“. At its end, you will find a “comments” link to click on.  And at the end of all the truly wonderful comments, you can sign and comment as well.

A Word of Thanks from Nick Sprayregen & Family

September 11, 2008

We just want to thank the hundreds of people who have visited this site in just the past number of hours. Your response has overwhelmed us!

And we send an additional word of thanks to the many of you who signed the petition and wrote wonderful thoughts.

What we all need to do is to let all our friends and family know about this site and the attempted “land grab” by Columbia University of an entire neighborhood of West Harlem.

We would also add a cautionary note. This community has been fighting this eminent domain abuse for over fours years and we are still fighting a “David versus Goliath” type of battle. It has happened here and it can happen anywhere. We must all stick together and be strong. Let this battle over West Harlem be the test case that makes a difference – not just for West Harlem but more importantly, for all Americans everywhere!

How to Sign the Petition

September 10, 2008

Want to sign the petition? Simply click here, scroll down to the bottom, then fill in the required information (and add a comment if you like). Please don’t let Columbia University abuse our nation’s 5th Amendment.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.

SIGN THE PETITION and STOP THE ABUSE!!!

September 8, 2008

To sign the petition, just scroll all the way down to “Leave a Reply,” fill in the required information and click “Submit Comment.”  Thank you so much for your support.

We, the undersigned, object to the use of eminent domain in the Columbia University Expansion Plan.
First, Manhattanville is not a blighted community and Eminent Domain is not needed to stimulate economic development or to eliminate blight.
Second, The Columbia Plan has been developer driven and developed principally to benefit Columbia. The taking of private property and transfering it to Columbia, a private institution, is unconstitutional and illegal because it does not constitute a “public use” and is without a dominant public purpose.
Third, since Columbia now owns over 80% of the property in the affected area and will have control over 96% of the area, Eminent Domain is not necessary or appropriate to attain any legitimate public purpose in Manhattanville.
By signing our name below, we, individually and collectively, say NO to the use of Eminent Domain in the Columbia Expansion Plan in West Harlem/Manhattanville.


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