Alyssa Katz

Alyssa Katz is the author of Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us and a senior fellow with the Pratt Center for Community Development.

Recent Articles

Masters of Eminent Domain

It's not often that residents of the devotedly liberal precinct of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, agree with Antonin Scalia and Tom DeLay. But the Supreme Court's decision last month in Kelo v. City of New London struck a nerve in this neighborhood and in others across the country where governments are coming in, forcing property owners to sell, and handing over that real estate to private companies. Neighbors here are outraged that the Sesame Street tranquility of this historic neighborhood will be disturbed by a new basketball arena and a cluster of mutant Frank Gehry high-rise apartment and office buildings -- built, in part, on land New York state is wresting from private owners. Community groups filed a brief supporting the New London homeowners fighting the seizure of their houses in hopes of stopping the arena project and others like it. They're out to defend humble neighborhoods against deep-pocketed developers and governments eager to share in the plunder. Yet in seeking to...

Blocked Out

Here's one way to sound the alarm about the impending death of a federal program that tens of millions benefit from and almost no one has heard of: Accuse President Bush of copycatting al-Qaeda. At a February meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, and National Association of Counties, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley invoked the September 11 attacks on “our metropolitan cores,” then went on to say: “Years later, we are given a budget proposal by our commander in chief, the president of the United States, and with a budget axe, he is attacking America's cities. He is attacking our metropolitan core.” O'Malley's incendiary words got the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which provides nearly $5 billion yearly in aid to cities and counties, what was no doubt its first segment on Paula Zahn Now . O'Malley waxed apocalyptic for a reason: The Bush administration's budget proposes to eliminate the CDBG and...

Toxic Haste:

After the World Trade Center fell, many shaken New Yorkers took unexpected comfort in numbers. As the mayor's initial order for 10,000 body bags was gradually displaced by an increasingly verifiable estimated body count, the calamity began, strangely, to feel almost fathomable. But in recent months, new figures have come to define more enduring fears for residents and workers in lower Manhattan. For instance, 180,000 gallons of fuel burned or spilled as the towers collapsed, including 30,000 gallons of electrical-transformer fluids that contain PCBs. And then there are the hundreds of thousands of atomized fluorescent bulbs, each containing a few dozen milligrams of mercury--possibly enough to help explain the high levels of heavy metals that have kept the headquarters of the Legal Aid Society, across the street from ground zero, sealed since September 11. A veteran hazardous-waste chemist for the Environmental Protection Agency now reports that independent testing of dust inside...