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Our Experience Handling Eminent Domain Matters


I have been involved in eminent domain matters for over 25 years. I was initially on the government side while working at the County Attorney’s Office and then switched to the private side representing property owners affected by such acquisitions. Representing both sides over the years has provided me with a unique perspective as to the positions of each party, as well as afforded me with an invaluable opportunity to meet experts, municipal representatives and governmental officials.  

As per the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the Constitution forbids the taking of private property without just compensation. See this article for additional information.

In the  State of New York, the Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL) defines the guidelines as to how an acquisition is to take place and the rights of the property owner. What is amazing is that the actual section was not codified until 1978, which is almost 200 years from the creation of the Bill of Rights. Why did it take so long?

Actually, the reason why it took so long to finally established rules was that the government not only had free reign to acquire property, but also controlled how much (or how little) a property owner was compensated.

For the first 150 years of this country, the government would acquire property and pay the property owners, but the amount of acquisitions that occurred were few and far between, as land was plentiful and the government either owned it already, or found ways to avoid acquiring it. Most property owners whose land was taken were underpaid and the process of challenging the acquisition was almost impossible. When Robert Moses came along and started building parks, roadways, housing and beaches, these problematic and unjust takings became known to the public.  

In his book, the Power Broker, Robert Cairo paints a picture of Robert Moses as a man who consolidated powers in his office during the 1920’s, in which he aggressively acquired property for many public projects such as bridges, parkways and housing. His influence on the Long Island landscape, as well as the entire State of New York is still felt today, and will continue well into the future. Even though his projects were revolutionary, he had a reputation of being unfair to minorities as seen in a recent opinion article in Newsday. See attached.

By the 1970’s, due to the efforts of Governor Rockefeller, Moses was forced out of power after 50 years; and shortly thereafter, the EDPL was solidified to provide significant protections for property owners in the State who were subject to condemnations.

The Litt Law Group is well versed in this unique area of the law and has secured multi million dollar awards for their clients. Our fees are contingency based and we are only paid if we receive money over and above the initial “advance payment” offer tendered. In addition, under the EDPL, the property owner may be reimbursed for their legal fees and costs associated with the litigation under certain circumstances.

If you find yourself subject to a condemnation, do not sign any documents you receive from the condemning municipality. Immediately call your lawyer, as there are strict deadlines that must be followed, lest you lose your constitutional right to be justly compensated.