Eminent Domain On Hold in Willets Point

For the past several years, Mayor Bloomberg has targeted businesses he doesn’t like in the Willet’s Point area of Queens for demolition.  Although he prioritized transferring these businesses to a private developer for the purpose of “redevelopment,” the mayor is still having trouble finding a developer willing to take on his grandiose vision.

Related Cos., the most recent mega-developer to commit to replacing the auto-repair businesses in Willet’s Point with swankier development, has now rejected the mayor’s $3 billion plan to build 5,000 apartments and 680,000 square feet of retail and hotel space, calling it financially impractical.

Business owners in Willet’s Point were told on May 2 that the city has dropped its plans to seize the properties using eminent domain.  The City Council will now need to go through the lengthy process of reviewing and approving new plans—a process that could take years.  Unfortunately for business owners, those years will continue to be fraught with threats of eminent domain, since the city refuses to take this abusive power off the table.  But for the time being, these business owners have a break.

Bittersweet Victory for Mount Holly Homeowners

By Caralynn Reddig

Homeowners that remain in the Gardens neighborhood of Mount Holly, N.J., were given a bittersweet victory on April 9, 2012. For almost a decade, politicians have been bulldozing rowhomes in the Gardens, systematically destroying a community of minority and elderly folks. The township had been planning to then give the properties to Keating, a developer that promised to build luxury apartments and townhomes much too expensive for the evicted Gardens residents. Watch our video, Scorched Earth: Eminent Domain Abuse in the Gardens of Mount Holly.

Leona Wright, Nancy Lopez, Santos Cruz, and other property owners had filed a lawsuit to keep the homes they rightfully own. But now, the township has stated they have run out of money. They have incurred “$18 million in debt for a project yet to be built.” Township Manager Kathleen Hoffman said she would no longer authorize litigation and sent a “cease and desist” order to everyone involved with the project.

Leona, who moved into her rowhome when her son was in 3rd grade, about 36 years ago, has fond memories of the Gardens community as it once was. So does Nancy Lopez, who also raised her children in the Gardens. Moving to New Jersey from New York, she has spent the past 24 years there. Santos Cruz has owned his home for 19 years, and enjoyed being part of a safe community that he believed to be perfect for raising his children.

Over the years, the township seized the homes of residents who had no interested in selling and bulldozed the neighborhood piece-by-piece, often disregarding damage they caused to homes still occupied by residents. Just three days before Christmas that same year, homeowners like Leona received a letter declaring they would have until January 15 to accept the township’s purchase offer or their homes would be seized using eminent domain.

Olga Pomar, who represented these homeowners in their lawsuit, lamented that her clients “have been living under the fear that their home is going to be taken from them since 2003.” With the end of litigation, the remaining Mount Holly residents can rest much easier now that their homes have been taken off the chopping block—yet the township has made the Gardens nearly uninhabitable. Residents must now deal with the loss of the community they once had and loved. Less than 70 of the 330 homes remain occupied.

Rumblings of Eminent Domain Abuse in Massachusetts

Rumblings of eminent domain abuse are coming from Weymouth, Massachusetts.  Property owner Nick Delegas is in danger of having his property seized by local politicians bent on implementing their own vision of the neighborhood, specifically “beautification and traffic improvements”.

Unhappy with Nick’s decision to wait to renovate his storefronts, Weymouth bureaucrats have recently advised the Mayor to look into taking Nick’s private property through eminent domain.  But Nick was waiting for new tenants before he started overhauling the property, and he had been negotiating with Walgreens to open a store in the property.  He stated, “We’re not going to leave it that way.  Is it going to look that way six months from now?  No.”

Unfortunately for Nick, Massachusetts is one of only six states that have yet to reform their laws since the infamous Kelo decision.  The state legislature has delayed efforts to curb eminent domain abuse and refused to pass reforms that would protect property owners like Nick.

Unless legislators act soon, the fate of Nick Delegas’ property is in the hands of the town’s bureaucrats.

Wondering what happened to CA redevelopment?

Wondering what happened to California’s hundreds of redevelopment agencies?  The San Diego Reader explains in detail the history of redevelopment and tax-increment financing in California, what happened this past legislative session, and the fight to revive these abusive agencies once more.  Read the story here.

New Video on Redevelopment in California

Join the Castle Coalition to help make sure eminent domain abuse is never resurrected in California!

 

Contact your legislators and tell them you support the elimination of redevelopment. Click here to find out who represents you in Sacramento.


 

Resources on redevelopment in California:

California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos:  Fiscal Meltdown Leads to Victory for Property Owners, School Districts, and Taxpayers,” Orange County Lawyer


IJ RELEASE:  “California’s Redevelopment Nightmare Coming To An End:  California Supreme Court Upholds Law Abolishing Redevelopment Agencies.”


“Should California End Redevelopment Agencies?” California Legislative Analyst’s Office


Victimizing the Vulnerable: Eminent Domain Abuse in National City, Calif.

California Scheming:  What Every Californian Should Know About Eminent Domain Abuse

Simplify, Don’t Subsidize:  The Right Way to Support Private Development

Development Without Eminent Domain: Foundation of Freedom Inspires Urban Growth


California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights

 

“Cities often give short shrift to affordable housing,” LA Times report exposes 120 failed redevelopment projects

 

IJ RELEASE: IJ Calls on California GOP to Eliminate Abusive Redevelopment Agencies

 

“California’s Secret Government: Redevelopment Agencies Blight the Golden State,” City Journal

Calls Needed Now: Federal Eminent Domain Reform Needs Your Help

Property Owners Nationwide Would Benefit From Increased Protections

 

February 29, 2012

H.R. 1433 passed the House of Representatives last night! An overwhelming majority of congressmen were in support of the resolution, so only a voice vote was required for passage.

The resolution now moves on to the Senate, where it will face an uphill battle. This will be the fourth time federal eminent domain reform has headed to the Senate—hopefully this time our elected officials will finally stand up for the property rights of their constituents.

The Castle Coalition will keep you updated on the fight ahead.

 

February 28, 2012

H.R. 1433, the Private Property Rights Protection Act, will likely be considered by the House of Representatives this week.  It was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month.  It is critical that you contact your representatives TODAY and tell them to vote for H.R. 1433. You may remember that this bill passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly in 2005 by a vote of 376 – 38, but has been stonewalled in the Senate since.

You can find your representative’s contact information here.

This reform is long overdue.  H.R. 1433 will strip any municipality that abuses eminent domain of federal economic development funds for two years.  You can read the text of the bill here.  It’s time that Congress stop being complicit in the abuse of eminent domain.

Read IJ’s op-ed in the Washington Times on federal eminent domain reform efforts here and below.

New London mayor apologizes, but is that enough?

City of New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio may have acknowledged that the city government wrongfully bulldozed Susette Kelo and her neighbors’ homes. But as IJ’s Scott Bullock points out, more is needed to protect against future abuses.

Below is Scott’s response to this article from The Day.

It was good to see that Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio apologized on behalf of the city and the New London Development Corp. for abusing the power of eminent domain in the disastrous Fort Trumbull project (“NLDC Gets a New Identity,” Feb. 1). But if the city wants to ensure that no other New Londoner goes through what the residents in Fort Trumbull did, then it should take the lead of other Connecticut cities, such as Fairfield and Milford, which have passed ordinances prohibiting the use of eminent domain for private development. That way, future mayors will not have to apologize yet again to homeowners and small businesses when their property is taken to give to private developers.

Editor’s Note: Scott Bullock is an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represented Susette Kelo.

Deadline to abolish redevelopment agencies looming

In the aftermath of the California Supreme Court ’s recent ruling that upheld the legislature’s elimination of redevelopment agencies, eminent domain abusers are reticent to relinquish their power.

The court’s decision directed the nearly 400 redevelopment agencies to close up shop by February 1, 2012.  It should come as no surprise that local bureaucrats across the state are fighting to extend the deadline.  The California Redevelopment Association is lobbying legislators to pass Senate Bill 659, which would extend the deadline to April 15, 2012.

The fight to protect property owners in California from abusive government power is not over yet!  This next chapter will surely test the resolve of state legislators to abolish these out-of-control agencies.

Property owners across California are invited to attend a rally at the California Capitol on March 7 at 12:00pm.  More details forthcoming—check the Castle Coalition site for updates.

For a detailed look at eminent domain abuse in California, check out California Scheming: What Every Californian Should Know About Eminent Domain Abuse.  To learn how to encourage development without the use of eminent domain, read Simplify, Don’t Subsidize: The Right Way to Support Private Development.

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Mayor Bloomberg Begins "Redevelopment" at Willets Point

By Fernando Ferreira

Willets Point, also known as the Iron Triangle, has been abandoned by New York City for decades. The area has no sewers; the streets are crumbling; there are no fire hydrants; no trash removal and no city plows when it snows.[1] Ironically, city officials are now using their own negligence to justify using eminent domain on the businesses and land owners that thrived in the area.[2]

The area that Mayor Bloomberg called “another euphemism for blight”[3] is actually a successful business district with over 225 businesses. Some, like Bono Sawdust Company have been around for over half a century. The company was started in 1933 by Jake Bono’s grandfather, who emigrated from Sicily. “My grandfather helped to build this economy, and he helped build America,” said Jake Bono, now president of Bono Sawdust.

Today, the Iron Triangle still plays a vital role in lifting the lives of those who have recently reached the Land of the Free. Over 1,000 local workers are employed in Willets Point, many of whom are hard working Hispanic immigrants.[4] Willets Point has become a place where newcomers to America can get steady employment and settle into their new lives with the support of the community.

For decades the city neglected the flourishing tax-paying businesses at the Iron Triangle. They refused to invest in infrastructure despite many petitions and complaints. However, now that every single business is on the chopping block, the city has given the go-ahead on a $50 million project to bring working sewers to the neighborhood. According to city officials, it is the first step toward the $3 billion redevelopment project.[5]

With the sewer project in place, and more flexible zoning for the area, the city has already laid the groundwork for development. There is no need to use eminent domain to force businesses out. Once the infrastructure investment is in place and new uses for the land are legally allowed, property prices are sure to go up. However, bureaucrats need not worry: Once landowners are allowed to keep their properties and benefit from its increased value, they have the incentive to either develop the property themselves, or sell it to someone who will.

The city of New York should take the easy, and right, way out: Give up on eminent domain. Scarce taxpayer money is better spent elsewhere, not fighting property owners in court just to benefit a handful of deep-pocketed private developers.



[1] Fernanda Santos, “A Confrontation Over the Future of Willets Point,” August 13, 2008.

[2] David Lombino, “Mayor To Redevelop Iron Triangle in Bid To Transform Flushing,” New York Sun, January 25, 2006.

[3] Karla Schuster, “Whole new ballgame; Urban renewal plan to remake Mets’ home and nearby industrial area is unveiled; local businesses protest,” Newsday, May 2, 2007.

[4] Tom Angotti, “Willets Point: A Defense,” Gotham Gazette, April 2006.

[5] Joe Anuta, “Willets Pt. sewer project begins amid opposition,” Times Ledger, December 8, 2011.