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The Irish and Eminent Domain

March 17, 2009

Around this time of year, I feel compelled to tell stories about the Irish…     I will try to make it short.

A good Irish story always involves politics, the law, and real estate.    So we will begin with a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005.  They made a blasphemous decision regarding eminent domain.   Our legal elite decided that it was OK to take property from an owner and give it to another party including private entities that could make large profits from the “taking”.    The horrible decision was made following an eight-year court battle waged mostly in part by one woman Susette Kelo;  Susette wanted to hold onto the only real thing she had…and that was her home.    The court decided that Pfizer Corp. could take her property because the proposed development they had in mind included a hotel, a research center, Coast Guard museum and basic urbanization of the property that would, in theory, increase the tax revenue for the local jurisdiction.  Read more about this court case in A Little Pink House.

So, here is my story about the Irish and eminent domain.   During prohibition, the Irish born Hurley brothers were running a speakeasy in Manhattan.  It just so happened that John D. Rockefeller leased some property from Columbia University nearby.   The stock market tanked and Rockefeller did his part to stimulate the economy.  He created and planned the largest private development project ever on the leased property…  Rockefeller Center.    Covering over 22 acres John D. needed to acquire adjoining properties to complete the development.  One of the desired properties was owned by the Hurley brothers and this site was home to their infamous speakeasy called Hurleys Irish Saloon.

Back in the day disturbing a local watering hole for the Irish wasn’t wise.  And if you know anything about Irish history asking an Irish born man to give up his property in America was probably not a good idea.   As you can summarize the Hurley’s had no interest in selling their property to the Rockefellers.  Actually, the Rockefellers didn’t want to pay the $250,000 price tag the Hurley’s were asking.  In fact, it wasn’t until 1999 that the Hurleys moved their business to another site.

To this day you can see how the Rockefellers dealt with the Hurleys.  They built around Hurleys Irish Saloon.   In my opinion, the Irish set precedent for a private company taking another’s for profit…..  It should not happen through eminent domain. And the Rockefellers did the right thing…built around it.  Oh, and the Pfizer project in New London, Ct.  never got built.   Pfizer backed out, the developer could not get funding, therefore, no increased tax revenues for the locals.    So, this story is for you just in case you needed another reason to support and embrace your local Irish Saloons today!!



IRELAND FOREVER-Erin go bragh!

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