NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 4:00 AM
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the justices of the Supreme Court discussed whether to consider a challenge to the constitutionality of New York rent regulations as applied to one Manhattan property owner.
The petition for a hearing filed by James Harmon, whose family has owned and lived in a five-story upper West Side brownstone for decades, scared the bejeezus out of tenant advocates and the Democratic establishment.
Why? Because he made a powerful argument that the law forced him to rent in perpetuity to tenants and their heirs at well below market rate, thus depriving him of full enjoyment of property, thus, in effect, taking his property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
The court’s inscrutable handling of the matter suggested at least one justice was inclined to put it on the calendar, but in the end it wasn’t to be. A majority said no without explanation, which is in keeping with the court’s standard procedure.
By our reckoning, that was a sad mistake. Harmon waged a valiant uphill fight seeking a statement from America’s highest legal authority about the limits of one man’s private property rights. The question was fundamental and deserved an answer.