Real Estate and Urban Policy Forum

Past Events


Constitutional Constraints on Local Governments’ Exercise of Eminent Domain: Implications of the Supreme Court’s Pending Decision in Kelo v. City of New London, CT -- December 6, 2004, Lipton Hall

 Inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent grant of certiorari in Kelo v. City of New London, New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, the Municipal Arts Society and the law school's Real Estate & Urban Policy Forum (REUPF) presented a mini-conference on the controversy over the "public use" requirement as it relates to government takings.

The program began with the parties' lawyers and public law experts discussing the positions in the case. Following a short break, the program continued with a second panel of government officials, real estate industry representatives, municipal finance experts, community activists, and affordable housing providers who explored the implications of a change in the public use requirement in their respective fields.

Panel One: Kelo v. City of New London -- The Issues Before the U.S. Supreme Court

  • Dana Berliner, Esq., Institute for Justice, counsel for petitioner Kelo
  • Daniel J. Krisch, Horton, Shields &, Knox, P.C, counsel for respondent City
  • Professor Clayton Gillette, Max E. Greenberg Professor, NYU School of Law
  • Professor Thomas Merrill, Professor, Columbia Law School
  • Professor Vicki Been, Director, Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, Moderator Panel Two: Implications of the Outcome of Kelo
  • Michael Rikon, Esq. (leading attorney representing property owners in condemnation controversies)
  • Norman Siegel, Esq. (attorney for Develop Don’t Destroy, opposing the use of eminent domain in the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Proposal)
  • Councilwoman Letitia James (District 35 Representative, Central Brooklyn)
  • Sarah Gerecke, CEO, Neighborhood Housing Services of NYC, Moderator

Panel Two: Implications of the Outcome of Kelo

  • Michael Rikon, Esq. (leading attorney representing property owners in condemnation controversies)
  • Norman Siegel, Esq. (attorney for the Manhattanville Area Consortium of Businesses in opposition to Columbia University’s potential use of eminent domain and for Develop Don’t Destroy, opposing the use of eminent domain in the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Proposal)
  • Councilwoman Letitia James (District 35 Representative, Central Brooklyn)
  • Sarah Gerecke, CEO, Neighborhood Housing Services of NYC, Moderator



Community Gardens Research Project -- October 23, 2004

The REUPF board is pleased to announce that Professor Been, Janet McGilvery of Urban Green and researchers at the Furman Center along with the members of the Environmental Law Society (ELS) and REUPF have neared completion on the Community Gardens Research Project – an assessment of economic benefits that community gardens bring to neighboring communities.

On Saturday, October 23, 2004, about twenty students from NYU's professional schools ventured out to community gardens in the Bronx to fill in the gaps left by previous assessments of the impact of community gardens on surrounding real estate values.  Specifically, the students performed evaluations of the quality of the gardens, which will later be analyzed to determine whether and how garden quality relates to valuation of surrounding real estate.

Abstract of the proposal seeking project funding:

     Local governments need accurate analyses of the impacts community gardens, parks and similar open spaces have on the value of neighboring residential and commercial properties.  That information is crucial to policy-makers seeking to mediate conflicts between the need for open space and the need for affordable housing, and to those deciding whether to promote the use of vacant lots for community gardens.  Local governments also need the data in order to decide the amount and kinds of open space they should acquire or protect.  Local land use and finance agencies need the information as well to value open space for the purposes of imposing impact fees or adopting tax increment financing programs to finance the provision of parks and gardens.
      Our knowledge about the impacts such spaces have on surrounding neighborhoods is quite limited.  No studies have focused specifically on community gardens, and those that have examined the property value impacts of parks and other open space are cross-sectional studies inattentive to when the park opened, so that it is impossible to determine the direction of the causality of any property value differences found. The existing literature has paid insufficient attention to qualitative differences among the parks studied, the effects the parks may have on commercial properties, and to differences in characteristics of the surrounding neighborhoods that might affect the property value impacts of parks.
     The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy proposes to address those gaps by examining the property value impacts of community gardens and alternative uses for the land, such as vacant lots.  We will link data about community gardens and vacant lots in New York City to a confidential database of the sales transaction prices for industrial, retail and office buildings, apartment buildings, condominium apartments and single-family homes.  We also will link the data to information about the characteristics of the properties sold, and the characteristics and demographics of the neighborhoods in which community gardens or vacant lands are situated.
     Using the hedonic method, we will compare the prices of properties within a given distance of community gardens or vacant lots to prices of comparable properties outside the designated ring, but still located in the same neighborhood.  Our unique 30-year database of property sales then will allow us to examine whether the magnitude of this difference has changed over time, and if so, whether that change is associated with the opening date of the garden.  This pre/post approach accounts for any systematic differences between the sites used for community gardens and other land in the neighborhood, resolves questions about the direction of causality of the property value impacts, and allows us to disentangle the specific effects community gardens and vacant lots have on surrounding properties from the myriad other changes occurring across neighborhoods and properties in the city
     The analysis provided by the study will enable local governments to make sounder decisions about whether and how to invest in community gardens and other open spaces, and how to finance those investments.