NY's highest court, the Court of Appeals, upheld the Manhattanville expansion plans of Columbia University, allowing the institution to move forward on its ambitious 17 acre project. The Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's ruling that the state's use of eminent domain to seize private property was unconstitutional and said the state improperly found property blighted. In the 7-0 decision, Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick wrote, "It cannot be said that [Empire State Development Corporation]'s finding of blight was irrational or baseless. Indeed, ESDC considered a wide range of factors including the physical, economic, engineering and environmental conditions at the Project site. Its decision was not based on any one of these factors, but on the Project site conditions as a whole."
The decision encompassed two lawsuits—one from Tuck-It-Away Storage owner Nick Sprayregen and one from gas station owners Gurnam Singh and Parminder Kaur. The parties are private landowners in Columbia's expansion footprint who did not work out deals with the school. State Senator Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) has been crying for eminent domain reform, “Right now, blight is almost conspiratorially defined to guarantee that institutions like Columbia will be able to get their way. Blight is in the eye of the beholder."