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What is eminent domain?

The concept of eminent domain recently made the news in New Jersey. The city of Hoboken had been attempting to obtain three acres of waterfront property through eminent domain. Now, the mayor of Hoboken has announced that the city will suspend all eminent domain efforts in response to a proposal issued by the mayor, who has alternative plans for the property. This aborted eminent domain action may have some New York and New Jersey residents wondering what exactly is eminent domain and when can it be used. Our Staten Island, New York real estate attorneys explore the concept of eminent domain below.

Eminent Domain Explained

Eminent domain is the process by which the government can take private property for a public purpose. Under the New York and the United States Constitution, the government must pay fair compensation to the owner of whatever property is taken. Eminent domain is a lengthy process through which the private property owner will have much notice to contest the action.

Before an acquisition can occur in New York, the government will conduct a public hearing near the location which it has selected for the public project. Any potentially affected owner will be given notice. At the hearing, the agency will reveal the proposed project and its location. You will be provided with the opportunity to contest the proposal or location with an oral or written statement along with documentary evidence. Within 90 days, the state or city will make a determination on the matter.

Should the government agency determine that the property is necessary for public use, owners affected by the acquisition can file an appeal within 30 days to dispute the findings. The appellate division of the supreme court in your county will review the hearing process, facts of the case, and the purpose of the project to ascertain whether it should move forward.

If your property is acquired through eminent domain, you must be paid just compensation. Just compensation is generally defined as the fair market value of the land or property. Appraisers will often be employed in the negotiation process. Anyone whose property may become the subject of an exercise of eminent domain should contact a real estate lawyer for assistance.