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Your columnist Bob Harris is right in questioning the fairness to Willets Point businesses in the city's threat to use eminent domain to take their private property and turn it over to a real estate developer ("Eminent domain unfair to Willets Point businesses," TimesLedger, Sept. 4). The use of eminent domain involves serious and lasting negative implications for the people of Willets Point and this city's residents.
I pose the following scenario as an example. A real estate developer walks along Union Turnpike and sees a block of small, taxpayer buildings. The developer approaches his political friends and says that these small structures pay the city a small amount of money. If given an entire block, he can build a huge, luxury apartment or office building.
Clearly, since such a structure would be more economically feasible to the city's treasury than the small buildings, the argument is made that eminent domain should be used to take the property and turn it over to the developer.
Consider this: If you drive along the Belt Parkway toward Manhattan, in the Fort Hamilton area of Brooklyn, there are several blocks of modest, one-story attached private homes with magnificent views of the bay and which, because of their size, must pay a small real estate tax.
Why not use eminent domain to take those private homes and have a developer build huge 30- or 40-story luxury apartment houses? Concededly, the city's tax take would be greater. As to the private homeowners, too bad you cannot stand in the way of so called "progress."
The point transcends Willets Point. To allow eminent domain under the Willets Point circumstances will set in motion another nail in the coffin of small businesses, the middle class and the less privileged. There is no rationale to having the little people bear the burden of making New York just a place for the rich and politically well-connected.
There should be no discussion concerning the other myriad issues involved in the Willets Point proposal until the city takes eminent domain off the table. City Council members should tread lightly, lest their neighborhood be next.
City Council members are paid by all taxpayers, not just real estate developers, and their obligation transcends their district. They must insist the city take eminent domain off the table.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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