Short context (inspired by a post on Aviation.SE):

In 1941 the Navy took over Bennett airfield in NYC and banned all commercial and civilian flights. After WWII the airfield was meant to return to commercial service to handle the excess traffic from LaGuardia. (Idlewild – now JFK – was still being built.)

But the Port Authority and the Navy could not agree on the cost of moving the Navy's facilities (the Navy wanted more than what was being offered), and it remained with the Navy. (nytimes.com, 1947)

My inner 5-year old says no money should be involved in this manner. So what are the politics here? (In general, it doesn't have to be about that example above.) Even if the city/owners received compensation for the 1941 takeover (they did, but for less than the asking price),* shouldn't the Navy move out once wartime was over (and not ask for money to move its facilities)?

* [The] Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air, wrote a letter to [Fiorello H.] La Guardia stating that the Navy was willing to take over control of Bennett Field for a price of $9,750,000.[129][110] This offer was substantially less than La Guardia's asking price of $15 million. (...) On February 9, 1942, the Navy submitted a "declaration of taking" that would allow it to acquire most of the desired land for $9.25 million. (Wikipedia)

  • I'm new here, feel free to adjust the tags.
    – ymb1
    Feb 13, 2019 at 17:14
  • 1
    This might be more a question of history than of politics.
    – JJJ
    Feb 13, 2019 at 17:26
  • 2
    I checked the on-topic/off-topic pages of the Help Center before posting. I'm asking in general, not a historical event; however, if everyone agrees with you, the mods have my consent to move it to History.SE.
    – ymb1
    Feb 13, 2019 at 17:29
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    Asking in general should be fine here, if you're more interested in the specific case I think you will get a better answer at the history site.
    – JJJ
    Feb 13, 2019 at 17:30

2 Answers 2


Because the land is now US property. And the government doesn't normally give away land for free, they have a vested interest in getting compensation just like anyone else. If the city or state wants it, they can purchase it (and pay to move the Navy facility) or sometimes the government will accept a land swap.


After further digging, it turns out to be the eminent domain of the takings clause in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Supreme Court has held that the federal government and each state has the power of eminent domain—the power to take private property for "public use."

Codified in 40 U.S. Code § 3114 - Declaration of taking.

So @pboss3010 is right, the land is now property of the US. I initially thought it was a temporary emergency measure, especially when the dispute boiled down to the cost of moving the facilities.

  • 1
    A special case here is that Floyd Bennett Field was originally constructed and owned by the City of New York, so the Fifth Amendment doesn't apply... it wasn't private property. Court cases have determined that the Federal government still has to pay when they take state and local governmental property, it's just not directly required by the Constitution.
    – user71659
    Feb 15, 2019 at 2:42

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