A member of the NYC Council introducing legislation to limit the power of government is about as uncommon as a smile at the DMV, but Council Member Hiram Monserrate is making a modest effort with respect to limiting eminent domain abuse. A strong opponet of the Willets Point redevelopment scheme, Monserrate is introducing a bill that would force the city to define exactly under what conditions it can declare a neighborhood blighted, and would guantee that any displaced business owner is properly compensated.
Obviously, that doesn’t go nearly far enough, since “blight” — regardless of how it’s defined — is a bogus reason to take someone’s property. A good starting point might be for NYC to pass its own version of the 5th Amendment, which the Supreme Court eviscerated in its notorious Kelo decision. If there are to be takings, then at most they should only be for true public uses, such as roads and defense, not for economic development — i.e., gifts of property to private developers. Ideally, eminent domain would never be used under any circumstances — the government should just buy what little property it needs in the free market like anyone else — but but I’d settle for a return to the Bill of Rights.