In the worst economic climate since the Great Depression… Hoboken, New Jersey moves to use Eminent Domain against private property owners to build a Park!

In the worst economic climate since the Great Depression…  Hoboken, New Jersey moves to use Eminent Domain against private property owners to build a Park!

July 24, 2011 – Ed Mecka @

In addition to the faltering U.S. economy, property owners in a six acre area of  Hoboken, N.J. designated  as “Southwest Six (SW6)” will now have to contend with the City’s threaten use of Eminent Domain to acquire their  property for a Park.

First and foremost, I want to make it perfectly clear that the concepts, planning, and resident needs for the proposed park as championed by the Hoboken Southwest Parks Coalition  (HSPC ) are not at issue.  HSPC is to be applauded for their efforts. 

Whatever the economic circumstances, everyone knows the basis for just compensation in eminent domain cases, from the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” 


Eminent domain is an action of the government to seize private property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent. The property is taken either for government use or by delegation to third parties who will devote it to public or civic use or, in some cases, economic development.  The most common uses of property taken by eminent domain are for public utilities, highways, railroads and public safety.  Most jurisdictions require that the government body offer to purchase the property before resorting to the use of eminent domain.

Hoboken’s threatened use of eminent domain comes at a time when most property owners have seen the value of their property investments fall.   

Quoting from a memorandum to the Hoboken City Council dated July 20, 2011, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer advocates the threat of Eminent Domain as a “tool” to force the sale of privately owned property to government for use as a park.  The implied threat is there despite the frequent variations of “if necessary.”

Southwest Hoboken however remains a top priority for my Administration. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we have found no willing sellers in the Southwest.  In light of this fact, the only way that the funds could be repurposed for the Southwest would be if my Administration has assurances that the Council would support the use of eminent domain if it became necessary to acquire land for parks in this neighborhood.  Please understand that eminent domain can and would only be used after good faith negotiations have failed. The eminent domain process is designed to assure that the property owner receives a “full fair market value” of their property.”

“This legal option would enable Hoboken to acquire land for park space.”

“Given property owners' inflated expectations of the development value of their property, it may be impossible to acquire land for park space at prices fair to the City's taxpayers without this tool available.”

It is my hope that the knowledge that the City would use eminent domain if necessary will create a dynamic in the negotiations that would ironically cause the use of eminent domain to be unnecessary.”

“Without this tool, the City simply will not have sufficient negotiating leverage to be able to acquire park land, except at highly inflated developer-driven prices.”


Realistically, why would anyone have expected that Southwest Six private property owners who would never voluntarily sell their property in a down real estate market accept Hoboken’s “market value” offer based on today’s economic conditions? 


Expect to see some costly legal battles as Hoboken defends against;

  • Just Compensation Defined By Fair Market Value
  • Courts Have Determined That Fair Market Value Is the Typical Measurement of Just Compensation, But Not the Exclusive Measure
  • Date of Valuation
  • Determining Whether a Fair Market Exists
  • Is the Current Market a Fair Market
  • Valuing the Property under No Compulsion to Sell


On July 20, 2011, the Hoboken City Council in a 5-4 vote passed “A RESOLUTION OF SUPPORT FOR THE USE OF EMINENT DOMAIN IN THE SOUTHWEST PORTION OF HOBOKEN.”   

City Council

Bhalla: Yes
Castellano: No
Cunningham: Yes
Giattino: No
Marsh: Yes
Mason: No
Mello: Yes
Occhipinti: Yes
Russo: No

Comments from council members (in no particular order):

Councilman Tim Occhipinti:

“The 4th Ward residents have waited longer than 3rd ward residents for a park. Sinatra already has $12 M in bonding and there has been no movement on the SW park. Our Freeholder, Romano, will support the money [$3M] being re-programmed for the SW. Bring us the evidence that you need to use eminent domain. Councilman Mello, if I support this, which Corporation Counsel says has no bearing, will we put forward the re-programming of funds to the SW?”

Councilman Dave Mello:

“Previous councils showed no willingness to use eminent domain. This kills the Administration’s leverage to go into negotiations. Nobody wants to use their bombs, but it helps in peace negotiations. We need to get the property prices close to appraised values.”

Councilman Michael Russo:

“This eminent domain pigeonholes us. You don’t need a resolution to use eminent domain. We always have the ability to use eminent domain.” Regarding the $3M grant, Russo felt the money would be better spent on the 6th & Jackson property which he described as more shovel-ready. “It might not be appropriate to put the $3M into the SW and rush this process. The Administration and Directors should find another place to put the funds which will then remove this resolution [eminent domain] from the table.”

 Councilwoman Carol Marsh:

“I don’t take eminent domain lightly. I do support this.” Regarding the $3M grant, Marsh felt that if the funds are used on Sinatra Field, then “we are eating $3M in land acquisition funding.”

Councilwoman Beth Mason:

“This is unnecessary and not the way to do it. We need to do it with transparency with the property owners. We only heard about this three hours before tonight’s meeting.” Regarding the $3 M in grant funding, Mason inquired with Director Forbes if the money could be split between the SW park and another project in need. Director Forbes did not have the answer for that.

Councilwoman Theresa Castellano:

“This is a very sneaky underhanded tactic [eminent domain] to take property. There’s been no proper notice to the public or the property owners. This is a tactic by the Administration to say we voted against parks.”

Councilman Peter Cunningham:

“I was against eminent domain five years ago on the 11th & Grand property. It was a bad project. This project [SW] has a benefit to all residents of the city by providing parks and flood mitigation. I’m in support of seeing this done. And flood mitigation is what I support.”

Council President Ravi Bhalla:

“i can think of at least two members who support putting the funds towards the SW park, but they haven’t offered the tools necessary to move that forward.”

Councilwoman Jen Giattino:

(We had no audible quote from her regarding eminent domain but she did inquire if the $3M grant would need to be spent in a one year period. She did say she wants the $3M to go towards Sinatra Field.)



Observer Highway to Paterson Plank Road and from Monroe Street west to the Light Rail. 



The Hoboken Master Plan of 2004 designated the privately owned properties in Southwest Hoboken (proposed area in Brown) as targets for acquisition for the creation of a park.  Community activists and the founders of Hoboken Southwest Parks Coalition never gave up the fight that continues today.

The debate for public parks in Hoboken is not a new issue.  During the past 30 years, the topic has invoked heated discussions at City Council meetings and resulted in voter referendums.



Prior Administrations were dissuaded by public opinion from using the Eminent Domain tool.  We now have an administration and City Council that have decided to use Eminent Domain as a tool.  Here is a map of the OPEN SPACE PLAN.    PDF version of Maps...  HOBOKEN OPEN SPACE MAPS


open space map.jpg


   page 60.png

Resource Box

Comments (0)

New comments are currently disabled.

Email to Friend

Fill in the form below to send this article to a friend:

Email to Friend
* Your Name:
* Your Email:
* Friend's Name:
* Friend's Email:
* Security Image:
Security Image Generate new
Copy the numbers and letters from the security image
* Message: