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See some of Saul Fenchel's eminent domain articles covering various subjects in Eminent Domain Condemnation.

Eminent Domain FAQ

View Eminent Domain/Condemnation FAQ
Eminent Domain FAQs about Eminent Domain Condemnation Law.

Eminent Domain/Condemnation - What is it?

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Eminent domain is the power of the government to take property for public purposes.1 The power may be exercised by traditional government entities such as states, counties, cities and villages, but it may also be exercised by agencies created by the government such as community development agencies, or state economic development agencies. It may even be exercised by public utilities. The term “condemnation” is often utilized to describe the exercise of that power.2

Many commercial property owners or tenants, especially those with or occupying property along major thoroughfares, will, at some point, be confronted with a condemnation. The New York State Department of Transportation has recently conducted, and is conducting, major interchange realignments, reconfigurations and improvements along the Northern and Southern State Parkways, the Long Island Expressway, as well as road widenings and improvements on major State thoroughfares such as Routes 25, 25A, 112 and 347 and State interchange projects along Route 17.

There are numerous community development projects either in process or under consideration by towns and villages throughout Nassau and Suffolk; notably in the Villages of Hempstead and Lynbrook, the Towns of Brookhaven and Babylon (e.g., Ronkonkoma Hub, Wyandanch “Rising”). Indeed, in addition to takings by agencies of the State of New York, cities, towns and villages across the State have initiated or are planning community development projects.

Many towns and counties have undertaken their own road widening and drainage projects which have and will affect many properties along the right of way. For example, Portion Road (CR 16) and Montauk Highway (CR 80) in Suffolk County.

Further, property may be taken by the exercise of the power of eminent domain by various special agencies or corporation created by the State of New York; notably the Empire State Development Corp. (also known as the UDC). In fact, some of the most prominent public projects have been undertaken by the UDC (e.g., the Harlem/Manhattanville Project, the Brooklyn Yards project).

1What constitutes a “public purpose” or “public use” has become a controversial subject especially in light of the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Kelo v. The City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) where the Supreme Court of the United States confirmed a broad concept of what constitutes a public purpose as a basis for the exercise of the power of condemnation under the United States Constitution due process standards. The New York courts apply a similarly broad standard. See, Kaur v. UDC, 15 N.Y.3d 235, 907 N.Y.S.2d 122 (2010).

2Although there is a technical distinction between the terms “condemnation” and “eminent domain”, they are generally used interchangeably to describe the power of government to take property for public purposes. Occasionally, the term “appropriation” will also be utilized. However, they all mean the same thing – by whatever process – the government possesses the sovereign right to take property provided it pays just compensation. In our FAQ section, the government or government agency which is taking the property is sometimes referred to as the “condemnor.” The property owner is also known as the “condemnee.”

For further information see the Eminent Domain/Condemnation FAQs.