The second major eminent domain decision in 13 months for the New York State Court of Appeals has Columbia University poised to move ahead on its $6.3-billion expansion in Harlem in upper Manhattan.


In a unanimous decision, a panel of judges in Albany, N.Y., overturned an earlier ruling that prevented the state from seizing by eminent domain a small amount of property currently home to private businesses. Columbia already owned most of the land in the proposed 17-acre development area.


The ruling came just more than a year after another major battle over eminent domain was decided in May 2009 by the same court regarding the $4-billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.


“The proposed project here is at least as compelling in its civic dimension as [Atlantic Yards],” the court said in its opinion, written by Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick. “The advancement of higher education is the quintessential example of a ‘civic purpose.’ ”


In 2002, the university announced plans to expand its campus through the construction of 16 new science, business and arts buildings over an area of 6.8 million sq ft, between West 125th Street and West 134th Street and from Broadway to the Hudson River. Warehouses, auto shops and dormant factories currently dominate the area.


The expansion plans have been controversial from the start. After being initially opposed by tenant groups and community boards, the Empire State Development Corp. in 2008 declared the expansion zone blighted and approved the use of eminent domain, clearing the way for Columbia to seize property from the remaining private landowners who had not reached a deal with the university.


- By Jack Buehrer


This report originally appeared on