Front Page

June 15, 2006 

Lessons from life are basis for school project
Daisy Hoagland selected to attend leadership conference in D.C.
Staff Writer


Daisy Hoagland


LONG BRANCH - When a fifth-grade class was assigned to do an independent study on a subject of their choice, one student picked a topic that was close to her heart, and even closer to her home.

For Daisy Hoagland, 11, a fifth-grader at the West End School on West End Avenue, settling on a topic was an easy choice. She chose to do an in-depth study on the abuse of eminent domain.

"I chose it because it is something that is going on in our city," Daisy said in an interview last week. "It was something that my classmates would be able to relate to."

Daisy presented an oral report on eminent domain abuse and illustrated her presentation to classmates with a visual aid and clippings from local newspapers' articles on the topic.

Daisy also took a survey of how her classmates feel about eminent domain abuse, and she said 24 out of the 25 students in her fifth-grade class felt that abusing eminent domain is wrong.

She then went one step further and showed the class a five-minute video of interviews with residents in her neighborhood who are living with the threat of eminent domain.

"I made the video to show the homes and interviews of people in my neighborhood who have been affected [by eminent domain] in Long Branch," Daisy said.

In her report, she wrote, "Eminent domain. It is supposed to be used for public use. It is intended to take homes and properties for parks, hospitals, schools, ... etc. However, the past few decades, the power of eminent domain has been abused."

The report continues, "Land has been forcefully taken and then handed over to private developers to build private homes. People have learned to stand up to what is known as eminent domain abuse."

Such is the case for Daisy and her family.

Daisy lives in a home on Ocean Terrace on the Long Branch oceanfront with her parents Denise and Lee and her two younger sisters.

The Hoaglands' home is in the Beachfront North, Phase II redevelopment zone.

The city's plans for the family's home call for it to be bulldozed and replaced with luxury condominiums.

"Eminent domain abuse is wrong and it affects everything in my family's life," Daisy said. "My teacher liked the report because it was something close to everyone."

In the report, she wrote, "Eminent domain is causing other issues besides leaving people homeless as well. For example, eminent domain comes between friendships and causes people to lie. Eminent domain can tear people apart and can force them to be untruthful."

She also explained the process of eminent domain in her report.

"First, the developers have to create a redevelopment plan. The city then has to approve the redevelopment plan and make sure it is for public use, or else they must deny the plan. But, this hasn't been happening lately. Cities have been accepting plans whether it includes public use or not."

In researching the project, Daisy obtained information on eminent domain from the Web site of the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm in Washington, D.C., that specializes in the protection of private property when eminent domain is being used for other than public uses.

She also used information from the Web site of the Castle Coalition, a nationwide grassroots network of citizen activists working to stop the abuse of eminent domain in their communities.

Daisy said her parents were also very helpful in assisting her with the project.

Her parents and their neighbors have been fighting to save their home from what they say is an abuse of eminent domain by hosting rallies and speaking at City Council meetings twice a month to plead with council members to not take their home for private development.

Her parents are also members of the MTOTSA (Marine and Ocean Terraces and Seaview Avenue) alliance, which was formed by a group of residents from the three-street neighborhood to fight the taking of their homes by the city.

"This would not have been my first choice," Daisy's mother said about the topic of her daughter's report. "But it is something that she knows, and I think this may have been a healing process for her to voice her views to her peers. I am very proud of her and happy that she did it."

The project was just a brief glimpse into local government for Daisy, and next year she will be taking it a giant leap further.

She was nominated by a teacher in her school and has been selected to participate in the People to People World Leadership Forum conferences in Washington, D.C. in the spring of next school year.

According to a press release from People to People, Daisy will be examining the characteristics of American leadership from Capitol Hill to the Smithsonian Institution and from Colonial Williamsburg to the National Museum of American History.

"Forum delegates will also participate in small-group discussions and exercises to experience firsthand how successful leaders develop strategies, make decisions, build consensus and foster change," the release states.

According to People to People, Daisy was nominated and accepted for the program "based on outstanding scholastic merit, civic involvement and leadership potential."

Two other students from her school have also been selected to attend the conference.

The program is a week-long event for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders and provides "interactive, face-to-face leadership training from members of the U.S, Congress and other government officials," according to the People To People Web site.

"I am very excited," Daisy said. "I might have never experienced what I will experience if I did not get this invitation. I didn't even know that a program like this existed. I feel very honored."



Rally marks anniversary of high court decision
Event calls attention to ongoing fight against eminent domain
Staff Writer


Residents in Long Branch redevelopment zones and their supporters marched last year to call attention to their plight.


One year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that eminent domain could be used to take homeowners' property for private redevelopment in Connecticut, the decision is still reverberating in Long Branch, where residents face a similar fate.

On the one-year anniversary of the high court's 5-4 ruling in Kelo v. New London (Conn.), members of the MTOTSA alliance will host a rally and march in their endangered Long Branch neighborhood.

The rally will be held on June 23 at 6:30 p.m., beginning in front of 38 Ocean Terrace, and is expected to be attended by activists opposed to eminent domain abuse from throughout the metropolitan area, including Camden, Trenton, Newark, Bound Brook, Lodi, Jersey City, Philadelphia and New York, according to William D. Giordano, a resident of MTOTSA.

Speakers at the rally will include Assemblyman Michael Panter and William J. Ward, an attorney representing several homeowners in the MTOTSA area, a neighborhood bounded by Marine and Ocean terraces and Seaview Avenue slated for eminent domain. Also scheduled to speak is attorney Bill Potter, chairman of the New Jersey Coalition Against Eminent Domain Abuse.

According to William Giordano, a rally organizer and MTOTSA resident, legislators from throughout the state have been invited to attend.

"It will be a rally and walk for justice to secure our liberty to own property as our founders had fought so hard to provide for us," according to a press release from MTOTSA.

The rally is being held "to reiterate the injustice served to every citizen's property rights on June 23, 2005, by the U.S. Supreme Court," according to the release.

"The Kelo decision, which jeopardized all property rights and fostered the continued abuse of eminent domain, represented a devastating day for all U.S. citizens," the release states.

The rally will kick off with speeches, followed by a walk along Ocean Boulevard to Morris Avenue and back, down the beachfront Promenade and concluding at the MTOTSA neighborhood.

The Supreme Court elected to hear the Kelo v. New London case in September 2004, and MTOTSA residents hoped a precedent would be set in that case that would protect their homes from demolition, according to Giordano.

Suzette Kelo, a plaintiff in the case, is a homeowner along the New London waterfront where the New London Development Corp., a private development company, planned to take her property and 15 others in the neighborhood to build a corporate campus with amenities including a hotel.

When the court rendered a decision affirming New London's right to take the private homes, Giordano and other residents of MTOTSA were "outraged," he said.

"The outrage and intense reaction from citizens across the nation was significant," Giordano said in the press release.

In New Jersey there are currently more than 80 municipalities that have redevelopment zones classified and have state approval to use eminent domain, according to the release from MTOTSA.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine appointed a Public Advocate whose first investigation was into the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment.

Last month, Public Advocate Ronald Chen and his office released "Reforming the Use of Eminent Domain for Private Development in New Jersey."

Chen and his staff visited communities throughout the state where eminent domain is being used by local governing bodies for redevelopment projects, in order to obtain a "better perspective" from citizens living with eminent domain for the report.

The report concluded that current laws in New Jersey do not protect the rights of property owners and tenants, and the entire system needs to be reformed.

Chen presented his report to the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee, which had been holding hearings on the use and abuse of eminent domain. Assemblyman Michael J. Panter (D-12) introduced bill A3178 in the Assembly last month, calling for a 24-month moratorium on the exercise of certain eminent domain powers by the state, counties and municipalities.

Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester introduced bill A3257 on June 8 which "amends and supplements the provisions of the Local Redevelopment and Housing law to provide greater accountability and transparency in its use by local governments in New Jersey," according to the bill.

"The bill does not seek to prevent the exercise of eminent domain, but it does seek to ensure that it is used more judiciously and produces equitable results," according to the proposed legislation.

Burzichelli recommends in the bill that the criteria for finding property to be in an "area in need of redevelopment" be reorganized and certain criteria be amended to remove the possibility of a property owner losing their homes because a "better" use could be envisioned by a local government, according to the bill.

The bill further states that if eminent domain is going to be used by a local governing body, the redevelopment agreement must contain a time frame for the acquisition of such property and a requirement that all requests for the use of eminent domain be made within five years of the redevelopment agreement.

In an interview Monday, Giordano was critical of Burzichelli's bill.

"This does nothing for protecting private property," Giordano said. "It doesn't change anything. All it is doing is now they can say that they did something. It's bad."

Giordano and MTOTSA member Lori Ann Vendetti were among 150 property owners and activists who attended the annual Castle Coalition Conference in Arlington, Va., last weekend

The Castle Coalition is the nationwide grassroots activism project of the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C., based law firm that specializes in protecting property rights.

Also in attendance at the conference was Bruce McCloud, who was physically evicted from his home against his will in November 2002 when eminent domain was used to seize his home in the Beachfront North phase I redevelopment zone.

Giordano added that MTOTSA has not been silenced by the Kelo ruling and members have recently distributed flyers around the city stating that the rally will "show our elected officials we will not stop until eminent domain abuse stops."

Giordano's home is located in the three-street neighborhood, designated as the Beachfront North phase II redevelopment zone, that has become known as MTOTSA.

MTOTSA is one of six areas designated as redevelopment zones by city officials.

Mayor Adam Schneider and the City Council adopted a redevelopment plan in 1995 to restore a city that Schneider had said was in "terrible shape and getting worse."

He also has said that he and the council believe that the plan is working and is in the best interests of the city as a whole.

Plans call for the approximately 36 properties in MTOTSA to be razed and replaced with luxury condominiums, which MTOTSA says is an abuse of the city's use of eminent domain.

In January, attorneys for MTOTSA filed a motion seeking to dismiss condemnation complaints served by the city of Long Branch on 20 residents that was filed in state Superior Court, Freehold. Hearings on the motion took place in March.

As of Tuesday, a decision by state Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson had not been issued.

"All Americans need to stand up for the protection of property rights and demonstrate that the violation of liberty in their country will not be tolerated," MTOTSA contends in the press release.

For more information or for directions, e-mail or call (973) 699-0375.