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  • Urban Revitalization and Eminent Domain: Misinterpreting Jane Jacobs

    The year 2011 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities. This is an auspicious time to review the impact of Death and Life on American land use regulation and eminent domain. It is also a good time to examine the impact of Jacobs’ work on courts in New York—where the ideas she proselytized seem taken into account in ways that are paradoxical at best and perverse at worst. During the past century, states and localities have been increasingly proactive in determining uses of land. Top-down decision-making is more prevalent. Originally, the availability of allodial title, free from the lingering constraints of feudal tenure, was the lure attracting settlement in colonial America. Likewise, the role of government in the new nation was both limited and largely designed to protect property, although, to be sure, there was civic republican sentiment.