Over the past few weeks we have been blogging about eminent domain and Cuomo’s big plans for Penn Station. We thought it would be interesting to continue the conversation, this time focusing on a possible high speed rail.
As part of his 2020 agenda, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced plans for a high speed rail along the Empire Corridor which spans New York City, Albany and Buffalo. This will require re-examining old studies and roadblocks, and we are guessing, some eminent domain proceedings.
In a prepared statement Cuomo said, "High speed rail is transforming economies around the world. We've been told that bringing this technology to our state is too expensive, too difficult and would take too long – that's not an acceptable attitude for New York."
As a reminder, previous plans to connect New York City to Albany promised a two-hour ride, and a trip from Albany to Buffalo in about 3.5 hours. We love to hear about the “estimated costs” and this project was billed at $15 billion. It sounds like it would be more if the estimate was being done today. As a point of reference, the Second Avenue subway line, which is two miles long, cost $4.5 billion.
Another example being used is the high speed rail project in California. That one has proven to be expensive, time-consuming, and full of problems. In 2008, California voters approved a $9 billion project to begin construction on a high speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Plans and ideas had been floating around for literally decades prior to the vote.
CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Jeff Morales, said that the agency was breaking ground on the proposed 520-mile rail network. That was back in 2012 and the problems started soon after.
Legal disputes were constant as those opposed to the plans accused the authority of not living up to the ballot initiative. In addition, the authority was tasked with individually acquiring each piece of property needed to build the rail lines. Of course, some of the property owners, many of whom were farmers, came together in opposition. This resulted in eminent domain in many of the cases.
Citizens are not patient and there were complaints that it was taking too long. "There was this notion that one day we’d wake up and suddenly there'd be this statewide high speed rail there," Morales said. "That’s not how things get done."
To look at the situation realistically, one has to realize that this type of project, a 500+ mile high speed rail that is built from scratch, had never been attempted before in the USA. All government money for infrastructure was going to interstate highways. Many feel that projects of this scale need Federal support to be successful. The California project did receive a multibillion-dollar boost from the Obama administration, but transit infrastructure has been decreasing under the current administration.
Morales is no longer CEO of the project, and today there is only a small section of rail under construction in California's Central Valley. Completion plans for 2020 have been pushed to 2033 with the cost doubling.
California isn’t the only example. Texas is in the planning stages of a bullet train between Dallas and Houston. It is hoped that ground will be broken over the summer for the project. In Florida, partially funded by Richard Branson's Virgin Group, a high speed rain from Miami and West Palm Beach is running and there are plans to expand to Orlando.
Is it possible to build a high speed train in New York? Are we more like California or Florida? Let’s see!
Sanchez & Polovetsky Goes to Nashville for the Latest Discussions on Eminent Domain and Land Value Litigation
Staying ahead of eminent domain law is critical to clients having the success that they have come to expect with Sanchez & Polovetsky. In part, that is why both Jennifer Polovetsky and Philip A. Sanchez have been named Super Lawyers for five consecutive years.
One of the ways the dynamic duo stays ahead is by attending conferences and networking with legal experts from around the country. This week, the team visited Nashville, Tennessee to attend the American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education (ALI-CLE) “Eminent Domain and Land Value Litigation 2020” conference. The national conference examines the latest legal issues related to relocation, regulatory takings, inverse condemnation, and valuation issues.
Always wanted to know what types of topics are being discussed at a legal conference in Nashville? A few may even have laymen wanting to find out more! Interestingly, many of these topics are stories that appear in the news on a regular basis and that we blog about. They relate to Property Rights as Civil Rights, Passive Takings by Government Inaction, Creative Approaches to Solving Difficult Appraisal Problems, Establishing the Date of Valuation in Direct and Inverse Cases.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of this type of meeting is mingling with the faculty and other registrants, and sometimes even engaging in one or two healthy debates! Of course, the team is also interested in absorbing some of the local Nashville culture and soaking in the city’s history, music and delicious food.
Stay tuned as what we learn this week might pop-up in next week’s blog post!
Last week we blogged about the Penn Station expansion plans by Governor Cuomo and the possibility of eminent domain proceedings taking place to make it happen. Our very own Philip A. Sanchez was interviewed on Fox5 News as saying, “This is entirely possible -- and the governor is completely within his right to do that.” And that “(…Eminent domain is) The one power that the government has that people don’t realize how awesome it really is.”
One of the first publicly reported challenges to Governor Cuomo’s plan is the reported comment, in Crain’s and The Real Deal, that the landlord of Penn Station has “no intention of selling.” As we are well aware, the Governor has eminent domain “in his back pocket” and is well within his rights to use it.
The property owner of the 17-story office building at 259 West 30th Street, Michael Orbach, is reportedly angry about the Governor’s proposal. “We are long-term property owners with no intention of selling.”
While this may seem like a new initiative for the Governor, the truth is that it is not. There have been talks over the years about an expansion, but the early-January 2020 announcement took some property owners by surprise. The announcement included the possible usage of eminent domain.
“We were never notified in writing of the state’s intentions prior to the announcement, so we really do not know what the scope of this project is,” Orbach said. “While we appreciate the need to expand Penn Station and appreciate the governor’s intentions here, we have seen the state’s use of the eminent domain process in the past at the New York Times Building on Eighth Avenue and it was not handled in a fair way for the small property owners involved.”
According to The Real Deal, 51 properties bordered by Seventh and Eighth avenues and West 30th and West 31st streets revealed that Cuomo’s office had not contacted them as of yet. Of course, the governor’s office said it wants to acquire private property through friendly negotiations. Condemnation is often expensive and a lengthy process.
As always, we remind our readers that eminent domain is not the end, but can be a new beginning for many property and business owners. Affected condemnees have the right to sue the government for additional compensation, over and above what the government initially pays in eminent domain. Our firm has successfully represented many condemnees in similar situations and obtained favorable results. Of course past accomplishments cannot guarantee future outcomes, but it is important to choose the right lawyer to represent you when facing eminent domain.
We will continue to follow this story and keep you posted!