Abuses of Eminent Domain? The NYT's Glass House (or Headquarters)

July 31st, 2007 5:43 PM

The front of the New Jersey section of Sunday's New York Times was dominated by "Now You Own It, Soon You Don't? -- Homeowners fight, and legislatures grapple with, eminent domain that benefits private businesses."

In a sympathetic story, reporter Russ Buettner relayed the plight of local property owners fighting abuse of eminent domain -- the taking of private property for public use -- by local governments. Such "takings" were made infamous by Kelo vs. New London, the controversial 2005 Supreme Court decision which found that the city of New London, Conn., was within its rights to condemn private property and hand it to a development corporation under the control of the city government, a decision that enraged left and right alike.

Buettner wrote:

"A controversial United States Supreme Court decision in June 2005, which upheld the power of local governments to seize private property for the benefit of private businesses, inspired an uprising that led 40 states to pass laws that rein in, to varying degrees, that authority.

"But legislatures in the three states in the New York metropolitan area, long seen by property-rights advocates as home to some of the worst abuses of eminent domain, have done little to change the status quo."

Yet Buettner's story had a strange omission -- one involving the New York Times Co. and its own apparent "abuse of eminent domain" in building its new headquarters.

As Matt Welch wrote last year in Reason magazine, the New York Times Co. used

"...eminent domain to forcibly evict 55 businesses--including a trade school, a student housing unit, a Donna Karan outlet, and several mom-and-pop stores--against their will, under the legal cover of erasing 'blight,' in order to clear ground for a 52-story skyscraper. The Times and [developer Bruce] Ratner, who never bothered making an offer to the property owners, bought the Port Authority-adjacent property at a steep discount ($85 million) from a state agency that seized the 11 buildings on it; should legal settlements with the original tenants exceed that amount, taxpayers will have to make up the difference. On top of that gift, the city and state offered the Times $26 million in tax breaks for the project, and Ratner even lobbied to receive $400 million worth of U.S. Treasury-backed Liberty Bonds -- instruments created by Congress to help rebuild Lower Manhattan. Which is four miles away."

Is it any coincidence that the Times editorial page stood along among major newspapers in supporting the Supreme Court's decision?

For more New York Times bias, visit Times Watch.