Eminent Domain

PRICE RIGGING – ZONING MANUPULATION, Hoboken begins the process of Eminent Domain to acquire private land for a park.

The City of Hoboken moved one step closer to using Eminent Domain as a “tool” to force the sale of privately owned property to the government for use as a park. 

In a unanimous vote, Hoboken City Council members passed two Resolutions that are necessary to initiate the eminent domain process.   The Resolutions approve the November 21, 2011 property value appraisals and authorizes the issuance of an “OFFER LETTER” based on fair market value to the record title owners of the properties. 

Not everyone in the audience was happy with the Council’s actions as two public speakers made their feelings know, one stating that Hoboken officials engaged in “price-rigging and zoning manipulation.

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 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.

Zimmer, Mason divided over uptown redevelopment

2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason

Wednesday night, the council voted to approve a redevelopment study for the now-19 block area near the Burlington Coat Factory, where a subsidiary of the Rockefeller Group has been buying land. The area now under review by the Planning Board was expanded westward to the Palisade cliffs, including the land occupied by the Academy Bus Company.

If a city declares an area a redevelopment zone, the city can change the zoning, seek developers with plans that conform to the new guidelines, take over certain property by eminent domain if necessary, and possibly offer a tax abatement agreement.

Mason said, “If [Hoboken] stops building, it will die. It will die. You have to continue to grow to some extent. You cannot stop.”

Long Branch residents to get day in court

The Anzalone Family

Residents of a neighborhood slated to be razed for an oceanfront redevelopment project in Long Branch get a chance to convince a judge their homes are not blighted under a ruling issued this morning by a state Appellate panel.

The appeals court upheld a number of actions of the city, including its right to delegate its eminent domain authority to the developer, but said Long Branch failed to show the homes condemned for an oceanfront redevelopment project in the city were considered blighted.

Tell Gov. Corzine to Stop Eminent Domain Abuse in NJ!

Tell Gov. Corzine to Stop Eminent Domain Abuse in NJ!

Public Advocate: Legal muscle needed to stop land-taking abuses

State laws that allow governments to take land for private redevelopment are being misused and need to be reformed to protect private property owners, the public advocate said in a report released Tuesday.

Public Advocate Ronald L. Chen urged the Legislature in his report to stem the abuses that violate private property owners' rights by amending the state's overly broad redevelopment laws.

"New Jersey's laws governing the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment are written in a way that leads to abuse," Chen said in the report. "When the government misuses this important redevelopment tool, people can lose their homes without real evidence that their neighborhood is blighted, without adequate notice or hearings, and without fair compensation."

Public advocate hears eminent domain defended

ATLANTIC CITY — Usually when Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen speaks out about the evils of eminent domain, he does so surrounded by a crowd of people who say they have been done wrong by the process.

But Wednesday at the Atlantic City Convention Center, he confronted a completely different animal: as a guest of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, he was speaking — by and large — to government officials who rely on the controversial power to pursue public improvement projects.

Stolen years, endless waits are eminent domain's toll

In her cozy white clapboard bungalow three blocks from the ocean in Asbury Park, Angie Hampilos waits. And waits.

For 20 years now, Hampilos, 92, has lived under the specter of losing her home of 47 years to make way for the city's long-awaited oceanfront redevelopment.

She can't sell it; she can't make any big improvements. She just watches it fall apart around her.

N.Y. Eminent Domain Fight Appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Property Owners Seek Protection from Extortion

With the results of this week’s elections, 34 states have adopted eminent domain reform in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s wildly unpopular decision in Kelo v. City of New London.

Yesterday, two Port Chester property owners joined with the Institute for Justice (the public-interest law firm that litigated the Kelo case) to ask the Supreme Court to look again at the issue of eminent domain abuse and ensure that lower courts do not read Kelo to completely eliminate judicial review.  The case illustrates the dangerous results of the Kelo decision and asks what should be an easy question: 

"Does the Constitution prevent governments from taking property through eminent domain simply because the property owners refused to pay off a private developer?"

Eminent Domain: Extortion is now legal, so say


In Kelo v. City of New London, this Court held that economic development within an integrated development plan was a “public use” under the meaning of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Kelo therefore completely preclude all claims of private purpose takings within an integrated development plan area, including a claim that eminent domain was used for financial extortion and the purely private financial goals of a single party?

What limits if any do the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution place on demands for cash in exchange for refraining from the use of eminent domain?

Survey: Public concerned about government power to take land

Survey: Public concerned about government power to take land

11/13/06  AP

NEWARK -- Most New Jersey voters dislike the ability of government to take land from its owners for redevelopment, according to a poll released Monday.

The survey also found interest in the topic remains high nearly a year after a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed a Connecticut city to use eminent domain to seize homes for commercial use.

Several bills to restrict the use of eminent domain are pending in the state Legislature.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll asked respondents to consider four scenarios under which local and state governments might seize property; none was supported by a majority.

Eminent Domine: Years later, family brews over seized home State, county used eminent domain, didn't finish work

One day in 1981, Barbara Fuller looked out the window of her Monmouth County home and saw a surveyor in the yard.

He worked for the state Department of Transportation and was mapping a realignment of Oceanport Avenue that would take it through Fuller's dining room. DOT eventually used its powers of eminent domain to seize her property, along with three neighboring ones, including a house owned by her aunt, Agnes Zager.

The road project never materialized.

Eminent Domain: Property Rights Act of 2006

Just in the nick of time, and two weeks before the United States Senate will adjourn, Senator James Inhofe (Republican, Oklahoma) introduced the "Property Rights Protection Act of 2006" (S3878). The bill is the same as H.R. 4128 which was passed by the House of Representatives in 2005 (325 affirmative votes to 38). H.R. 4128 has been dormant in the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite the efforts of many property reform groups to see some action.

The new bill, S3878, will go directly to the floor of the Senate, requiring Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist to put eminent domain reform on the agenda. Other Republicans,  including Arlen Specter, Bill Frist and President George Bush are missing in action on this issue. Eminent Domain reform is an important issue nationwide and will not go away.

City Budget: Let's look at some things the City Council is doing

Dear Editor:
I say kudos to Lane Bajardi and Rick Kamber for rounding up their communities and constantly applying public pressure on City Council to vote in favor of what's best for their communities'.  We should further challenge the Administration and City Council to work harder in creating a balance between what is best for the City of Hoboken when it comes to public policy and the budget. You simply cannot just steam roll the public to fund a deficit!

Board of Education: Public advocate joins eminent-domain foes. He'll take part in appeal of Long Branch decision

LONG BRANCH — Embattled homeowners in a waterfront neighborhood fighting the city's efforts to take their homes for private redevelopment gained a powerful ally Wednesday — their second in two days — in their fight to protect their properties.

State Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen said he would participate in an appeal to block upscale condominiums from replacing homes in the Marine Terrace-Ocean Terrace-Seaview Avenue area, commonly known as MTOTSA, which residents say is a well-established, close-knit neighborhood.

Appeal of eminent domain ruling set. Institute takes up Long Branch case

Some residents of the Marine Terrace-Ocean Terrace-Seaview Avenue area in Long Branch will file an appeal today in their case against the city's plan to use eminent domain to take their properties for redevelopment.

Scott G. Bullock, senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, and Jeff Rowes, a staff attorney with the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit group, announced the appeal — and said the institute was formally joining the case — during a meeting Tuesday with the Asbury Park Press editorial board.

City Council did the right thing by voting against eminent domain for Grand Street

Dear Editor:
In a letter published in the August 20th issue of The Hoboken Reporter, Luis Torres charges that City Council members who defeated the ordinance authorizing the city to use eminent domain to seize the two businesses at 1012-22 and 1032-40 of having "caved into special interests to thwart redevelopment." What Mr. Torres neglects to mention is that the "special interests" in this case are the people who live on the block and don't want to see its unique character spoiled by tasteless, oversized condo buildings, its trees and cobblestones ripped up by construction vehicles, its limited access blocked with endless traffic jams, and the end ` of any parking on the street by family and friends from out of town.

Eminent domain showdown tomorrow

HOBOKEN — The city council is once again being asked to authorize a controversial plan to take two businesses in the Northwest Redevelopment Zone — but its anyone's guess if Mayor David Roberts can win the five votes needed to introduce the ordinance at tomorrow's council meeting.

In March, the council withdrew an ordinance authorizing the condemnation of two Grand Street properties, citing a lawsuit filed by the redeveloper, Ursa/Tarragon.

Council meeting goes to 1 a.m. Southwest redevelopment area established; mayor's open space pledges meets skepticism

The goals for the southwest corner of Hoboken are easy enough to express. It's a traffic-clogged, flood-prone, park-starved area that has century-old sewers. It could use traffic planning, new open space, and major infrastructure improvements.

Those needs are largely uncontested, but there is controversy over how to make them happen.

A packed council chamber More than 150 people looked on as the Hoboken City Council debated until 1 a.m. Wednesday night. They finally voted 5-4 to create a Southwest "Industrial Transition" District Redevelopment Area.

Eminent Domain Abuse & Hoboken, New Jersey

April 14, 2006 Hoboken, New Jersey was once the busy port city of Elia Kazan's 1954 film, "On The Waterfront". But by the 1970's, Hoboken had ceased to be a contender. Laid low by post industrial malaise, many of its docks and factories were half empty or abandoned. Then, at the end of the decade, Hoboken hit real estate pay dirt. As the price of housing climbed in Manhattan across the Hudson, Hoboken picked up a massive outflow of young, middle class professionals. Apartment and condo towers sprang up like mushrooms along the waterfront, and development became the city's primary economic engine. Since Hoboken was considered an urban orphan, much of its redevelopment was accomplished with financial assistance from federal, state and local government, through various forms of direct funding, tax breaks, and advantageous loans. Some arrangements carried the stipulation developers provide a degree of affordable housing for those displaced by the Manhattan exodus.

Circa 2006, mile square Hoboken is fast becoming a mini mirror of Manhattan. A place where only the wealthy, or the subsidized (albeit in lesser numbers) can afford housing. The initial middle class emigres were followed by waves of the more affluent, and the revitalization that began on the waterfront has reached the far corners of the city. Hoboken is now one of the most expensive swaths of real estate in New Jersey. Yet taxpayers are still being tapped for development assistance, and a sizable section of the northwest part of the city is an officially designated "redevelopment area". Hence, open to the use of eminent domain.

COMMENTARY: What's so complex about restraining eminent domain?

Much ballyhoo surrounded Gov. Corzine's appointing the first public advocate in more than a decade. Ronald K. Chen's first act, however, leaves a great deal to be desired. He said he needs to review the use of eminent domain for private development because it is a "complex issue." Oh brother!

What's so damned complex about passing a law that says New Jersey government can't take private property primarily for commercial development or to raise more tax revenue?

Long Branch residents fight for homes in court

The Anzalone Family

UPDATE:  Judge reserves decision in eminent domain case

Two Long Branch residents whose homes are targeted for condemnation under the policy of eminent domain are heading to court this morning to try to convince a judge to block the taking of their oceanside houses for condominium development.  The Matzel and Mumford Organization of Hazlet is teaming up with Applied Development Company of Hoboken to build the condo project which has resulted in the displacement of area residents, many of whom are senior citizens.   "Matzel and Mumford's considerable consumer awareness in this area and it's stellar record of customer satisfaction made it a logical choice for this partnership," notes David Barry, Applied's President.

Ocean Terrace residents Louis Anzalone, age 89, and Frances DeLuca have asked Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lawrence M. Lawson to invalidate the condemnation of their homes by the city because, they claim, the city has not shown that the properties are in need of redevelopment and therefore eminent domain cannot be used. The city is in the midst of a massive redevelopment of its oceanfront that includes new high-end shops, townhouses, condominiums and apartments where single-family homes used to stand.

Lawson is scheduled to hear arguments at 10 a.m. in Freehold. Opponents of eminent domain - the taking of private property for public use - are expected to protest outside the courthouse an hour before the hearing. 

Eminent Domain backlash in Hoboken

HOBOKEN:  As the "Eminent Domain for Private Gain" issue slowly simmers to a boil in the Mile-SquareCity,  the Hoboken City Council appears committed to averting a very public, protracted, and costly legal battle with the City

Hoboken residents question eminent domain for private gain

     In case you missed it, the hot topic of discussion at the March 15, 2006 Hoboken City Council meeting was the City

New Jersey League of Municipalities supports the Kelo decision

No Chance of Kelo in N.J.

So says the New Jersey League of Municipalities in their white paper entitled "Redevelopement - A Fundamental Right and Responsibility of Local Government.

The exact circumstance in the Kelo case could not occur in New Jersey since a designation or blight (redevelopment) is required to provide the basis for any governmental action.   After the decision, the League has been asked to comment on, criticize or defend the Court

Little Ferry Council acts to curb its own Eminent Domain power

LITTLE FERRY -- The Borough Council is proposing both an ordinance and a resolution to limit its authority to take private property through eminent domain.

Both moves are intended to give homeowners an added sense of security that their properties won't be seized for redevelopment.

Eminent Domain: When is enough, enough?

Dear Editor:
Does Councilman Cricco expect Hoboken residents to pick up the pom-poms and cheer along with him at the wonderful philanthropy being displayed by (surprise, surprise two of the mayor's biggest contributors) URSA/Tarragon? We finally have some developers giving back to the community that made them rich and now the city council wants us to believe that we are indebted to them? The band has been paid. Don't get me wrong, I applaud "givebacks" (not boondoggles) and consider them long overdue but how much money have the various developers made in our city? In addition, is this a display of pure altruism or just the mere fact that many residents are sick and tired of developers getting their way and giving back very little for the huge profits they make? Maybe URSA/Tarragon decided it would actually be cost effective to invest a small fraction of the money they have made back into the community. You know...good PR and all that. Oh, but let us all applaud and kowtow now along with the rest of the city council. Do they think us that inept?

Eminent Domain: An open letter to the Hoboken City Council: Eminent Domain Grand Street Hoboken

Dear Editor:
Having just listened to a taped recording of the closed session of the Hoboken City Council meeting held back on March 1, 2006, I feel compelled to correct some misimpressions seemingly held by several council members.

Eminent domain can affect you, too

Dear Editor:
Thank you for highlighting Hoboken's current eminent domain issue on the front page of last week's Reporter. While many homeowners (houses or condominium) may think that the issue of eminent domain does not affect them I am writing to say it does.

You may think your home is safe from eminent domain, but is it? Unless you live in a six-story building (five stories apts/condos over one story garage) with full or nearly full lot coverage, your home could be put in a redevelopment zone. According to Tom Jennemann's article (3/5/06), "Redevelopment, according to state law is a zoning term that means there is an area within the municipality that is not being used to its full potential." Your neighborhood is not zoned for five over one, not to worry.

Eminent Domain: Leave my peaceful and quiet block alone!

Leave my peaceful and quiet block alone!
03/13/2006 Hoboken Reporter

Dear Editor:

I am a resident of 1021 Grand Street for eight years and during that time I have fallen in love not only with its quiet, quaint charm but also the industrial nature of its surroundings.

The serene, cobblestone street is an anomaly in Hoboken where almost every block is overcrowded with double-parked automobiles and luxury condominiums built partially to expand Hoboken's tax base while padding developers' pockets.

Imminent eminent

Dear Editor:

Robert Moses Eminent domained his way through New York City, doing "good" as he saw it, but the view of history is that he was a destructive force killing "living" neighborhoods, and if only some of his work could be undone. Even the loss of one street, built over by the WTC, was severely missed, and with the Towers gone, the local people want it back.

The people who would use "eminent domain", what with it being the irrevocable tool that it is, really should pay attention to the history of its use. The lesson being that you are never as smart as you think that you are. You can be utterly blind to something that you have undervalued.

City Budget: Why should innocent property owners pay for Hoboken's financial mistakes?

Dear Editor:

What an utterly asinine thing for Councilman Michael Cricco to infer that "it's time to pay the band" by taking property from innocent owners through eminent domain. Why should these particular owners have to pay the piper for years of financial mismanagement by successive city administrations, administrations that Mr. Cricco has been a part of and has supported on almost every issue.

Eminent Domain: Dismayed at City Council's response over eminent domain in Hoboken

Dear Editor:

I am writing this in reference to "Eminent Domain hits Hoboken" article published in your March 5th edition.

Having attended the council meetings where these ordinances have been discussed, I have been extremely dismayed at the City Council's response to this issue. Rather than siding with the residents' wishes, their response has been that they cannot do anything about the issue and that their solution has simply been to attempt to change the image of the project rather than the project itself.

Eminent domain debate hits Hoboken

Eminent domain debate hits Hoboken

Property of two viable businesses could be seized for 150-unit residential development 
03/05/2006 Hoboken Reporter

The block of 10th and Grand Street is one of the more quaint and unique areas in Hoboken. Its residents rave about its quiet, tree-lined, cobblestone charm and high property values. They believe that their block is hardly in need of redevelopment.

But on Wednesday, the Hoboken City Council introduced legislation that would authorize condominium developer Ursa/Tarragon to "purchase or condemn" nearly half of a block to build 150 units of mostly market-rate residential housing.

Adding to the controversy is that the land that they want to take is not rat-infested or abandoned property, but is the home of two businesses whose owners would like to stay open in their current location.

Kwitman & Son, one of the last industrial businesses in Hoboken, has produced drapes and other home furnishings for the past 23 years. The company employs several dozen employees.

The other business, U-Store-It, is a publicly traded company. Neighbors of the storage facility say the business provides an invaluable service for many Hoboken residents whose apartments don't have enough closet space.

What's the deal?

Over the past decade, politicians and city planners in Hoboken have used redevelopment law to develop large portions of the city.

Redevelopment, according to state law, is a zoning term that means there is an area within the municipality that is not being used to its full potential. Designating a redevelopment site can mean special zoning. It can also mean allowing the developer to get tax abatements or make special in-lieu-of-tax payments.

Redevelopment also means the governing body can pool a large area of property together, even if the land is owned by multiple owners, and then zone the property as they wish.

Back in 1998, Hoboken's west side was blighted, with only a smattering of timeworn warehouses and trucking companies. Under the administration of former Mayor Anthony Russo, the City Council created the "Northwest Redevelopment Area" and adopted a plan for the over 20-block area to stimulate growth. Now many blocks have new condo projects.

The western side of the block of 10th and Grand streets is the far eastern edge of that redevelopment zone. URSA/Tarragon was designated as the developer for this portion of the Northwest Redevelopment area in 2001, according to city officials.

At Wednesday night's City Council meeting, the governing body introduced an ordinance that would allow the developer to "purchase or condemn" the property where the U-Store-It and Kwitman & Son are located. Essentially, it would give the developer the ability to use eminent domain to seize the property to build 150 units of housing.

What is 'eminent domain'?

The U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment currently allows the government to force a private person or business to sell their land so it can be put to "public use." Under this government power, known as eminent domain, property owners must be given "just compensation."

The U.S. Supreme Court originally, in the 1950s, ruled that private property could be seized in blighted neighborhoods or communities. The government generally used the power in order to eliminate slums or to build highways, schools, airports or other public works.

Since then, lower courts lessened the burden for the definition of "public use" and have ruled that the mere opportunity to create jobs or generate tax revenue is enough to apply it. In recent years, cities have become more ambitious and aggressive, creating "redevelopment areas" where land has been taken for parking lots, big box department stores, casinos, residential housing and other revenue-generating businesses.

It's not 1998 anymore

At Wednesday's City Council meeting, a number of neighborhood residents said that they oppose the city's plan to seize property currently in use by a private business only to use it for residential, market-rate housing. The neighbors also said that the project would have a negative impact on the local traffic patterns, and would make the city's parking problems even worse.

While the Northwest Redevelopment plan was successful in spurring development on the city's west side in 1998, conditions have changed and that original plan should be reevaluated, the neighbors said.

"I think that a decade is a long time to keep a plan in place," Grand Street resident Sandy Azzollini said. "Every plan should be flexible. The [project] would drastically change the face of the neighborhood."

She added that both of the businesses are "quiet and good neighbors" and that many residents take advantage of the storage units.

Grand Street resident Maxie Plant added that it's hardly a "public use" to put "two exceptionally viable businesses" out of business and replace them with a "massive complex" that is out of scale with the rest of the block.

Grand Street resident Ann Graham implored the City Council to amend its redevelopment plan.

"You are the redevelopment authority of this city and you can change this," she said. "You have to realize that the neighborhood does not want this. You can say that this is no longer a viable redevelopment area."

Hoboken resident Jim Vance spoke out against the practice of taking private property and using it for a private use.

"Who is to say that my home isn't next?" he asked.

Vance added that he found it interesting that Ursa and Tarragon were two of the biggest contributors to Mayor David Roberts re-election campaign last year, and now the city is considering giving them the power of eminent domain to build what promises to be very profitable project.

Staying the course?

Councilman Michael Cricco, who is the councilman for the area, said that while it might not be 1998 anymore, the Northwest Redevelopment plan has been a tremendous success. He added that Hoboken has reaped great rewards from the plan over the past eight years, and that the west side would still be full of blighted and empty lots without it. He said that the original plan should be seen to completion.

He also said that Ursa/Tarragon is offering substantial givebacks to the city. He said that they are building 200 affordable housing units in the area, donating lights to the city's little league field, paying for winter skating rinks, and cleaning up severely contaminated properties in Hoboken. They are also building a multi-million dollar community center and pool, which is already under construction.

"It's now time to pay the band," Cricco said.

Community activists have countered that this property is only a small percentage of the Northwest Redevelopment Area.

They also argue that on Tarragon's very own Web site, the company has boasted about how the Northwest Redevelopment projects are some of their most profitable. According to the activists, URSA/Tarragon would hardly be precluded from making a profit on the area if the city were to amend the redevelopment plan to exclude these two buildings.

But Council President Christopher Campos said that it's not that simple to change the plan. He said that the 1998 Redevelopment Plan and the 2001 developer's agreement constitute a legal contract.

"We, as a city, have a contractual and moral obligation to continue with the use of a redevelopment zone," he said.

Damned if you do and if you don't

But Councilman Peter Cammarano observed that no matter how the City Council votes, they are likely looking at a lawsuit. He said that Ursa/Tarragon has already filed a lawsuit against the city and the City Council to compel them to live up to their developer's agreement.

But if the council authorizes the use of eminent domain, they are looking at lawsuit from the property owners. The owners could argue in court that 150 units of residential development in a neighborhood that already has million-dollar property values might not qualify as a "public use."

"I think we might be in for a bruising," Cammarano said. "I'm not convinced that we are taking it for a public use."

Bar's fate still awaits court date. Hearing rescheduled as business owner fights St. Peter's Prep over land

The Golden Cicada, located on the corner of Grand Street and Marin Boulevard in Jersey City, has become the center of media attention in recent weeks. 
If you approach the Golden Cicada Bar and Restaurant on Grand Street in Downtown Jersey City, you will be greeted by a sign perched above the fence:

"Hands off my property,

The ten Commanants [sic] says 'THOU SHALT NOT STEAL!'

Support the campaign to stop Eminent Domain here

If they can steal mine, yours could be next.