Rally marks anniversary of high court decision
Event calls attention to ongoing fight against eminent
BY CHRISTINE VARNO
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
Giordano and MTOTSA member Lori Ann Vendetti were among
150 property owners and activists who attended the
annual Castle Coalition Conference in Arlington, Va.,
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
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
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
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
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 MTOTSA@aol.com
or call (973) 699-0375.