Eminent Domain in Long Branch, N.J.: The time of their lives

"This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Arnold Giordano is 80. Rose La Rosa is 80. Anna DeFaria is 80 years. Lori Vendetti is 80. Louis and Lillian Anzalone are both 89. Al Viviano is 93. All of these senior citizens were originally from the City of Newark and now live in Long Branch, New Jersey.

Attorney Arthur Greenbaum, founder of the Greenbaum Rowe law firm, is 80 and his brother, Robert Greenbaum is 84 years of age. The Greenbaums were also born in Newark and, like Louis Anzalone of Ocean Terrace, they are veterans of World War II who served in the United States Navy.

Would the Greenbaums meet with their fellow senior citizens and explain why it is necessary to take their homes by eminent domain? After all, Louis Anzalone had the courage to go on Fox News and tell his story. Louis Anzalone, at 89, has the heart of the greatest generation.

Connect to the Hannity & Colmes Foxnews video file. The Long Branch eminent domain story is set to load.

Let's get personal: consider dislocating your octogenarian wife, your belongings, and the memories of living for more than 50 years in the same dwelling. Doing that to a senior citizen at this stage in their life is tantamount to a death sentence. People are being crushed in this process. More than fifty percent of the residents in the MTOTSA neighborhood are senior citizens and retirees. It's not just another real estate deal. The people responsible for this travesty, the Greenbaum law firm, the Hovnanians, the Barrys, and Mayor Schneider have to consider the very real effects of their project on the people whose homes are being condemned.

"We heard about condos for land as a trade in order to keep the longtime residents in the neighborhood and, all the wonderful tax breaks and condo association help we would receive. This offer was never made to my family from the builder. Never!" Joseph Milano, Long Branch resident wrote in the Atlanticville.

The mayor's offer of giving these condemnees a condominium in the project at an affordable price is not an acceptable remedy. These condos are not the equivalent of single family residences on their own lots in terms of square footage, building to land ratio, and enjoyment of light and air, which are the reasons beach-block properties are so valuable. Jonathan Last, writing for the Weekly Standard, explains:

On the land acquired in Phase I, the developers built not the glorious, integrated residences imagined by the master plan, but a series of bland, cookie-cutter condos and townhouses--a total of 283 units, which sold for between $600,000 and $1.2 million.

The highest offer that we are aware of in Beachfront North Phase II is $552,000. Thus, a senior citizen would be getting less square footage, less land, and a mortgage on top of the trade proposed by the mayor. A mortgage! All of these octogenarians are on a fixed income, primarily Social Security. Why, at their age, would they want to take on a mortgage?

When asked about abandoning Beachfront North Phase II, the mayor has said the City of Long Branch has contractual obligations to its developers, the Applied Group and K. Hovnanian subsidiary, Matzel Mumford.

The city has the power of eminent domain - not the developer. Yet, the city has improperly contracted away its discretion as to which properties will be condemned and which properties will remain. Thus, it is the developers who are running the show, not the City of Long Branch. This is why the conflicts of interest among the Greenbaum firm, K. Hovnanian, the Ansell firm, and the City of Long Branch are so destructive to the fair implementation of the eminent domain process.

As reported in the Atlanticville, Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider refuted charges that law firms representing the city were involved in a conflict of interest because they had ties to developers:
"There is no conflict of interest. The firms have made sure to stay out of cases, redevelopment and other, where there would be a conflict," Schneider said Monday. "I am not particularly concerned with this issue."

City of Long Branch Attorney James Aaron has said, "What's good for Hovnanian is good for Long Branch." This statement shows a striking lack of understanding of conflicts of interest by the city's counsel and recalls the concurring opinion of Justice Kennedy in the Kelo case:
"A court confronted with a plausible accusation of impermissible favoritism to private parties should treat the objection as a serious one and review the record to see if it has merit."

Arthur Greenbaum is a director and major shareholder in Hovnanian. Hovnanian subsidiary Matzel Mumford has built all the condominiums in Beachfront North Phase I and will be the builder for Phase II. James Aaron's firm represents Hovnanian and advertises this on their website. This is precisely the insider favoritism and insider dealing that Justice Kennedy addresses. Contrary to the assertions of Mayor Schneider and attorney Aaron, there is a conflict under Rules of Professional Conduct RPC 1.7 (2). The applicable rule as stated below provides that a municipality cannot waive a conflict of interest:

RPC 1.7 CONFLICT OF INTEREST: GENERAL RULE (a) A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client will be directly adverse to another client unless: (1) the lawyer reasonably believes that representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client; and (2) each client consents after a full disclosure of the circumstances and consultation with the client, except that a public entity cannot consent to any such representation
Mayor Schneider is also an attorney licensed in New Jersey who should be familiar with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Justice O'Connor expressed her fears in her dissent in Kelo:

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result."

The Real Estate Bloggers capture the storm in Long Branch:

The combination of a low appraisal, skirting the requirements of "fair and open" negotiations, and a legal system that the average person can not understand creates a terrifying scenario for the homeowner who only wants to keep their family home.

As Anna DeFaria, 80, told the Associated Press, "They're taking my home away -- not my house. My home. My life."


Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lawrence Lawson established the following schedule:
The hearing on the right to take these properties will take place March 24, 2006 at 10 am. at the Monmouth County Courthouse in Freehold, N.J.
Answering papers of the remaining MTOTSA property owners are due March 3, 2006.

Reply papers from the City of Long Branch are due March 17, 2006 and additional reply from the defendants, if any, are due March 20, 2006.

Ed. note: The City of Long Branch v. Anzalone was settled on September 15, 2009, after negotiations. The Anzalones claimed that the trial court erred by not allowing discovery on how the various conflicts of interest of city officials and the City's law firms might have influenced the decision to include their property in the redevelopment. In the Appellate Division opinion of August 7, 2008, the court wrote, "We find no reversible error in the trial court's findings regarding conflicts of interest, bona fide negotiations, or delegation of eminent domain authority." (Slip opinion, 6.)

Written By:Rev. Kevin Brown On February 20, 2006 4:18 PM

As a direct result of eminent domain abuse in New Jersey, 75 people gathered for a meeting hosted by the Princeton Justice Project at Princeton University to form a new anti-eminent domain abuse statewide/regional group. Look for this group to take serious action all over New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and beyond. The battle cry is "Enough is enough: no more eminent domain abuse!"

Written By:Fred Strahlendorf On February 20, 2006 9:06 PM

Speaking of getting a condo for your home in Long Branch, my wife and I were told by Applied Development when we inquired about the possibility of receiving a condo in place of our home which they took and bulldozed, "We'll put you on our 'preferred list' and maybe get you a discount." This is their idea of fairness and concern for the homowners.

Written By:Doris Morris On February 21, 2006 12:13 PM

"Let's get personal: consider dislocating your octogenarian wife, your belongings, and the memories of living for more than 50 years in the same dwelling. Doing that to a senior citizen at this stage in their life is tantamount to a death sentence. People are being crushed in this process."
You are so right, this is very personal and it time for our elected officials get off the greed of money and get the back to the foundation this country was built on. My heart bleeds for the people of this country.
I live in Plymouth, North Carolina and my area is facing a government land grab of over 30,000 acres from generational farmers and homeowners. The U.S. Navy wants our land to relieve the state of Virginia residents of over encroachment, noise, and pollution around Oceana. Our elected officials have been offered a token a two squadrons for our land. The squadrons will be located at Cherry Point (app 70 miles way). We are a small, poor community but fighting back with all our heart. This will cause an action of loss of homes, farmland, property taxes, jobs, tourism, wildlife, and place our military pilots and the residents here in harms way. The Navy's own scientific data reported the harms way this would create. But oh, how our politicians just love that money.
The people of this country must unite. Please go to our web site www.noolf.com for more information. God bless this country and the people.

Written By:Florentin Vasiliu On February 24, 2006 2:00 PM

I watched Hannity and Colmes and my advice to you is never give up the fight. We do the same thing here in Florida: hire the best lawyers and fight to the death. Establish a homeowners association and go to the meetings, write to legislators, and go back to Hannity and tell him to show that clip with the Mayor over and over...for the whole world to see. You'll get a lot of sympathy from all over the country. Good luck!

Post A Comment / Question

Remember personal info?