"Land Grab: How the Eminent Domain Bulldozer Created a Private-Property Backlash"

Article excerpt

Gurwitt, Rob

Governing, January 2001, pp. 26-29.

In the late 1970s, the village of Port Chester, New York, declared a large section of its downtown to be a renewal area. Over the past three decades, developers have announced plan after plan and abandoned their intentions almost as soon as they were proposed. Finally, in 1999, the village approved a megaplan that included a $120 million effort to transform its waterfront along the Byram River, which runs into Long Island Sound, into a 27-acre entertainment and retail complex. Unexpectedly, while the village fathers scratched their heads about what to do with the "blighted" Main Street, the downtown area took it upon itself to begin the revitalization process on its own. Apartments were filling up with working families, and storefronts on Main Street took on a new life, with dozens of ethnic restaurants, groceries, and other small businesses. This however, did not satisfy the village leaders who had their hearts set on their multi-million dollar retail and entertainment complex. To make sure that the plans re ached fruition, Port Chester exercised its right to eminent domain. The small businesses and families that restored some measure of life to the downtown have been evicted, but they are not going quietly, and the whole thing has ended up in court. …