You know if an article that we read mentions eminent domain, we get excited. When we read about eminent domain and outer space, we knew it was something that we had to share.
On April 2, 2020, the White House issued an executive order on “encouraging international support for the recovery and use of space resources.” Karl Grossman, a professor of journalism at the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury, thinks that is a push by the US to militarize and commercialize space.
The executive order states: “Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law.”
According to Grossman, the term “international support” heavily implies that the US has a unilateral right to engage in the recovery and use of resources in space. “So between denial and greed, here the US is moving ahead quite unilaterally to exploit - I think there’s gold up there. It’s very important. We’ve discussed this before - how US military documents throughout the years have actually talked about the US military moving up into space … We [the US] somehow think we have eminent domain,” Grossman said.
A report by Space Daily, an online outer space news site, notes that space is a “challenging place for commercial activity,” especially since an increased body of knowledge points to there being valuable minerals such as gold, silver and platinum on celestial bodies such as the moon.
In 1967 the United States signed a non-binding treaty, aptly named the “Outer Space Treaty of 1967” which says that “the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind.” And that “outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States” and “outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”
You may not know this (and that’s why you should read our blog) but there is a Moon Agreement. This agreement says, “the moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind,” and an “international regime should be established to govern the exploitation of such resources when such exploitation is about to become feasible.”. Adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly, it has 18 signatories, none of which are major space powers such as Russia, China and the US. The potential issue that experts see is that it may open up the moon’s resources to the United States under the recent executive order.
This all leads us to one last thought. Will there be a requirement for eminent domain lawyers to take an outer space bar exam?
The news is about to get ugly with stories about fights over commercial rents defaulting. As stores are closing across the United States, struggling retailers are skipping rent and asking for concessions. Landlords are demanding payments and seemed to be trapped in the middle as they are in talks with lenders.
Getting the economy going is on everyone’s mind and there is no easy answer. It is going to be a delicate balance between timing and safety. Some mall owners and retail landlords said that they have collected less than 15% of what they are owed. More than $20 billion in rent payments are coming due in May, so the situation is expected to get worse.
Landlords are talking to tenants about rent deferment, which would allow tenants to make reduced payments now so long as they pay the balance at some point. Business are answering with a host of options, including rent cuts, even after stores are open again.
Landlords seem to be really caught in the middle. They are facing their own debt defaults and are complaining that large corporations are using the crisis to skip out on rent. Other landlords say they are not responsible for bailing out tenants and that the federal government or insurance companies should cover the costs instead.
Many landlords are focused on working out deals with lenders to stave off their own defaults. Banks and insurance companies are negotiating deals on a case-by-case basis, but borrowers in commercial mortgage-backed securities have fewer options. About 9% of U.S. CMBS retail property loan borrowers have been late on April payments so far, according to preliminary analysis of remittance by data firm Trepp.
One report said that companies including AT&T Inc., T-Mobile USA Inc. and J.C. Penney have paid for April. Ross Stores Inc. and fitness chain Solidcore, are among those standing firm on requests for rent abatements and asking for additional concessions. Williams-Sonoma Inc. is another chain that has stopped paying rent, according to reports.
“We’re not going to be bullied by the landlords during this time,” said Anne Mahlum, Solidcore’s founder and chief executive officer said. “We have some leverage here. What are they going to do, say get out and then have vacancy for months on end?”
Experts, including Jackson Hsieh, CEO of retail landlord Spirit Realty Capital Inc., says that not paying is likely to backfire. The firm, which owns more than 1,700 properties, has seen requests for rent relief since the crisis started. But several of those tenants ended up paying.
One agreed to pay after getting loans from the government’s relief package, while another did so after being asked to provide financial information. A discount retailer and a company in the auto industry paid after Spirit refused to consider their rent deferral requests.
“If a tenant just says I’m not going to pay, fine, I’ll default you, I’m going to go to the courts, and you have 30 days to pay or quit,” Hsieh said. “I don’t want to be negative, but we own the building.”
This is an issue that is in the early stages, not only locally, but around the world. While we blog about real estate and eminent domain issues, we hope that you are staying safe.
A memorial in The Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground honoring the dead who are buried there.
It’s shocking but true. Many parks across the United States were once cemeteries. There is nothing inherently wrong with turning a cemetery into a park. If done properly, it can be a sign of respect to the bodies there. Most of us think of parklands as a welcoming and restful place, often filled with fond memories.
In New York City for example, Washington Square Park-where so many NYU students and Greenwich Village residents go to enjoy a bit of sun or a walk-has the remains of a massive pauper’s grave. The site interred more than 20,000 corpses between 1797 and 1825, many of whom died during successive yellow fever epidemics.
Elizabeth Meade is an archaeologist with one of the biggest environmental engineering firms in the northeast (Allee, King, Rosen & Flemming (AKRF)). She is completing her Ph.D. at the City University of New York, where she has documented 527 cemeteries in the five boroughs. Shockingly for many of us, the roughly 200 resulting maps show the boundary lines of graveyards still open for business, historic sites just beneath the surface, and tombs 30 feet deep.
“There were quite a few that were reclaimed specifically to make parks,” Meade said. Washington Square, Madison Square, and Bryant Parks are the best known, given their well-documented histories as 18th and 19th century as potters’ fields—a plot where the city held indigent burials. In these cases, “the city owned [the land] already, and they could easily convert it,” Meade said.
You may remember our blog post about Seneca Village, a free black community the city cleared away to build the first public park in the United States. Downtown, in Greenwich Village, James J. Walker Park was built on the former St. John’s Burial Ground, which buried more than 10,000 bodies between 1799 and 1858. In 1895, “the city just took it by eminent domain,” Meade said. Only the bodies of well-known New Yorkers were moved. The rest remained.
Another example is Weccacoe Playground in Philadelphia, PA. In 1810, Richard Allen of Mother Bethel AME Church founded the city’s first non-denominational Christian cemetery on the site. Until 1864, it accepted the remains of black Philadelphians whose bodies were banned from other, segregated burial plots. The church buried an estimated 5,000 bodies in just a quarter-acre. The site was eventually closed and then rented out for different uses. Over time, evidence of a graveyard was beaten down by people, draft animals, and carts. In 1890, the church sold the land to the city for use as a pocket park.
In 2013, a group of influential Philadelphians came together and decided that the site needed to be commemorated. The city appointed a committee to reevaluate the use of the land. The city that loves outdoor art is evaluating submissions from artists around the world for a piece of public art that will commemorate the history of the site.
Traditionally run by the Department of Corrections, New York City’s current potter’s field, Hart Island, is the final resting place for more than 1 million bodies. In December of 2019, the city council passed a law that will transfer the land to the Department of Parks. “This is about giving respect and dignity to the people who are buried on the island,” Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez said in a committee hearing.
Sadly, this is a very current topic and one that is quietly being discussed in New York City as the coronavirus death toll increases. According to city councilmember Mark Levine New York is considering “temporary interments.” “This likely will be done by using a NYC park for burials (yes you read that right),” “Trenches will be dug for 10 caskets in a line.” Mayor Bill de Blasio said he doesn’t want to talk publicly about the city’s plans.
Perhaps not, but it’s certainly caught our attention.