Eminent Domain: Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk in Long Branch, N.J.

"I think about the atrocities and the abuse that eminent domain has caused the American people. It's unfair and it's a crime. It's time to abolish this abuse." -- Bruce MacCloud as reported in the Asbury Park Press

On Saturday October 15, more than 500 citizens assembled in Long Branch, New Jersey to protest eminent domain abuse. My wife and I were among them. After seven days of heavy rains and floods, we walked in brilliant sunshine from Denise Hoagland's house on Ocean Terrace, down the beachfront promenade, past the row of condos where Strahlendorf's house once stood, through Pier Village to Morris Street and back along Ocean Avenue. We walked with our client Bruce MacCloud who lost his home to eminent domain in 2002. Bruce's trial was scheduled for last week but will probably be listed again sometime in November.

Bruce MacCloud pointed to a block of tall, upscale condominiums that have been closing in on this community's modest neighborhood. "I am a victim; that's where my house sat," he said.

MacCloud said he was forced from his Victorian house one week before Thanksgiving in 2002. He was temporarily relocated to a local motel and was given $140,000 for his home.

"They think they offered me just compensation for $140,000. I feel that's unjust compensation. Do you know anywhere in Monmouth County where you can buy a house for $140,000?"

Is there anywhere in New Jersey where you could purchase property in the beach block four hundred feet from the ocean for that price?

As reported in the Atlanticville on October 13, 2005:

McCloud's home was located in the Beachfront North, phase I, redevelopment zone and on Nov. 6, 2002, he was physically evicted from the home he had owned for 23 years.

The properties in his neighborhood were taken by
the city through its power of eminent domain and
since have been bulldozed and replaced with highrise
townhomes and condominiums.

On the morning of his eviction, MacCloud said six
police officers, a locksmith, an animal control
officer for his 13-year-old black shepherd, Shannon,
and fire bureau officials gathered on his property to
escort him out of his home.

Hoisting placards and wearing t-shirts decorated with "stop eminent domain abuse" buttons from the Castle Coalition, we marched as drivers honked in support. Along the way we met George Mytrowitz and members of the Mulberry Street Coalition fighting eminent domain in Newark. They were accompanied by residents of Bound Brook, allies in the fight against eminent domain abuse.

Carol Segal, a Union Township property owner who is fighting the unholy alliance of Union Township officials and developers spearheaded by Assemblyman Cryan, shared his story. Segal has had some success fighting the project and is slated for further hearings before Union County Assignment Judge Walter Barisonek.

There was Chang Tan and his wife who are fighting the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency and the taking of their property, and Gopal Panday and his wife, protesting the lower Broadway project in Long Branch. See Atlanticville article.

Yvonne Braime and attorney Dorothy Argyros, representing Neighbors United in Neptune, lent their support to the Long Branch property owners.

On the corner, Reverend Kevin Brown was filming his next segment for Long Branch Live and the Electric News. "Jersey Kev," as he calls himself, is the pastor of the Lighthouse Mission located at 162 Broadway in Long Branch, which is also slated for acquisition.
"We are not going to wait around for our properties to be taken from us," Kevin Brown told the Atlanticville. "We are getting involved now....We are more than willing to renovate our properties. We are here now and we want to stay here."

This was a small part of an assemblage that came from all over New Jersey to exercise their right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Homeowners Denise Hoagland and William Giordano spoke passionately about their commitment to preserve their properties against the threat of eminent domain.

Giordano said, "Tomorrow you will read in the New York Times what the director of the League of Municipalities said. He said: 'Where do people think development comes from? Some development fairy who waves her magic wand?' Tomorrow you will read in the New York Times that David Barry calls us 'opportunists looking for higher prices for their property, or the limelight, and the very few who are really victims.'"

Dana Berliner, senior attorney for the Institute for Justice from Washington, D.C. spoke. Peter Wegener of Bathgate & Wegener of Lakewood, N.J., who represents MTOTSA property owners, will be joining forces with Carlin & Ward to file answers and motions to dismiss the eminent domain complaints on behalf of their respective clients.

But what happens next is in the hands of New Jersey legislators. Both gubernatorial candidates have said that they are opposed to the use of eminent domain in redevelopment projects to acquire residences. This is a start, but it does not address the larger issues. New Jersey needs an Eminent Domain Revision Committee to look at both the Eminent Domain Act of 1971 and the Local Redevelopment Housing Law.

Everyone will be talking the talk up to November 7, election day. Let's see who walks the walk the day after.

Written By:Bob Quasius On November 4, 2005 1:09 PM

Carol Segal will appear on the Hannity and Colmes show on the Fox News channel tonight, Friday November 4th. Be sure to watch!