Eminent Domain Abuse

Often requiring high-powered legal help to fight these issues, eminent domain is becoming a serious subject these days. It’s the sort of thing that can affect home and business owners often in a way that takes them completely by surprise.

In most jurisdictions of America, eminent domain has been used very sparingly, but throughout history there are some glaring exceptions, for example, when they built the I-95 through New York City. Many people say that the way they handled eminent domain in this particular case (basically literally bulldozing over people’s rights) contributed to the decline of the Bronx in general from what was considered a beautiful place to live to the poster boy for blight and ghetto conditions the world over. This is an extreme example, but it serves to remind us why there must be checks and balances on the use of this government power.

New extensions, loops and branches of the Interstate system and other land-hungry highway systems are constantly being built to this day, so the danger of creating another Bronx is real (some may even tell you that cities such as Detroit and New Orleans experienced similar phenomena due to eminent domain abuse).

There is, however, a more common and insidious use of eminent domain that often falls into ethically questionable territory, that of so-called “urban renewal”. Often, local governments are altogether too gung-ho about destroying what they consider “blighted” neighborhoods to make room for newer and higher-density construction in areas conveniently close to city centers.

This sounds good in theory, but often governments, who tend to be run by bureaucrats who it seems maybe have never even walked a city street in the flesh, have no idea exactly what it is that they are tearing down in the first place.

As a final thought, it’s a little ironic that, when a new development comes up on a site of archeological significance, it HAS to be preserved in its entirety, but on the other hand, we often destroy entire neighborhoods full of living people and living cultural treasures on the basis of “progress”. Therein lies lots of food for thought.

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