Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Court of Appeals hears eminent domain case

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn gather outside the state Court of Appeals building in Albany before the court heard oral arguments. Gazette photo by Doron Tyler Antrim

The State Court of Appeals heard arguments this afternoon in a case that may affect the use of eminent domain in New York state.

The case, Goldstein v. New York Urban Development Corp., is centered around eminent domain – the ability of the government to take a citizens private property for public use. In this case, the plaintiffs believe that their homes are being taken for private, rather than public use for a project called Atlantic Yards.

Atlantic Yards proposes to build a basketball stadium in Brooklyn that would be home to the New Jersey Nets, among other things. The project will affect neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

About 40 members of “Develop Don’t Destroy,” a community based organization opposed to the Atlantic Yards project, were outside of the court before the hearing in addition to approximately 20 members of the Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, which is an organization of community leaders who are in favor of the project.

This is the first time since 2005 that the State Court of Appeals considers limits on the use of eminent domain.

The hearing of the case ended around 3 p.m. and a decision is being awaited.

Contaminated Food and Food-Borne Illnesses

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand held a conference call Tuesday to discuss her plan to curb food-borne illnesses in America by reducing the incidences of contaminated foods in the markets.

Her plan involves improving inspection, recall response and public education on food that has been contaminated.

Gillibrand wants to increase inspection of beef products to eliminate E.Coli outbreaks. Thus, she is authoring the E.Coli eradication act which will make it mandatory for all beef products to be tested before grinding and before it is mixed with other spices.

Gillibrand, a member of the Senate's Agriculture Committee, is also supporting the Food and Drug Administration's Food Safety Modernization Act. The legislation aims at preventing outbreaks before they begin by requiring facilities to implement preventive procedures. The FDA would have the right to the procedures and testing records of all facilities.

Another priority for the senator is to increase inspection of imported foods into the country as 60 percent of America's fruits and vegetables are imported from abroad. She cited problematic foods from China such as contaminated fish and salmon. She mentioned that the Department of Homeland Security are short of 1/3rd officers who specialize in inspecting agricultural products.

To make recall response faster and more effective, the senator has authored the safe food for schools act which would ensure that schools are swiftly informed when products are recalled. She also wants to ensure that the FDA will have the authority to forcefully recall products off the market, if they haven't already been done so by the producing company.

She is also supporting the consumer recall notification act which will allow the secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services, the USDA and the commissioner of the FDA to promote communication between states, states and local health departments, food distributors and sellers, to provide fast and accurate information to consumers.

Gillibrand's plan will increase cost to producers, but not to taxpayers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

High court hears same-sex marriage cases

The Court of Appeals hears from Brian Raum, senior counsel at Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund. Raum argued in Godfrey v. Spano that Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano violated state law in declaring the county would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
Gazette photo by Doron Tyler Antrim.

The state Court of Appeals heard oral arguments today in two cases concerning same-sex marriage.

It heard a challenge to a 2006 executive order by Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano that recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states as well as Canada. It also heard a challenge in Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Service to a 2007 DCS decision to extend health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of state and local government workers.

Both cases were heard simultaneously. The Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, AZ, were the plaintiffs in both cases.

This is the first time in three years that the state's highest court has reviewed the issue of same-sex marriage. In 2006, it ruled in Hernandez v. Robles that the state Constitution does not guarantee same-sex couples the right to marry.