Home of a Century Gone in a Heartbeat
at the Hands of NLDC
By Matt Dery
As you read this, you’re probably sitting at home with a cup of coffee and flipping through the newspaper at your own kitchen table. Imagine there’s a knock at the door and someone tells you your home isn’t yours anymore. You’ll have to move. Even if you refuse to sell, they’ll take your home through eminent domain so you might as well pack your bags.
This very message arrived on our doorstep—along with those of all of our neighbors—one morning three years ago when real estate agents descended on Fort Trumbull like a pack of hyenas. From that day forward, my family and my neighbors have been mistreated by the City of New London and the NLDC. They’ve behaved as if the razing of Fort Trumbull were a foregone conclusion, even as we’ve fought for our homes. From the beginning, it has been psychological warfare with the NLDC threatening us with eminent domain. All along we’ve been stuck in the middle, struggling to stay while preparing to go.
My family has lived our entire lives in Fort Trumbull. My great grandmother’s family moved to this neighborhood from Northern Italy in 1895. My mother was born in her house at 87 Walbach Street in 1918, and she has lived there her whole life. In this house, she married my father in 1944, and they’ve lived there for 56 years. She saw three of her four children die in this house—including her first in childbirth and my brother in a tragic fire. This house is not just a building on a plot of land, but a home for her lifetime of memories.
My grandmother opened a grocery store on our threatened property in 1917. She extended credit to everyone in the neighborhood when they needed it, and when the property went into receivership during the Depression, she worked until 1958 to earn it back. Through good times and bad over the course of the past century, we’ve been good neighbors and good citizens. We were good enough to pay taxes for more than 100 years, and we put up with the stench of a substandard sewage plant until Pfizer came to town. Any town should want residents like us, but now New London has decided that they want better people here, so they are trying to move us out.
One incident exemplifies the arrogant bullying we’ve received at the hands of the NLDC. My family used to own a five-stall garage next to our homes, but now it has only four stalls. The NLDC acquired the property next to the garage and proceeded to demolish the home there. Debris from the demolition struck our garage and took out one of the stalls. The only offer of reparations the NLDC has made was one half of the lowest estimate for repair. We’ve finally been compelled to sue for compensation to restore our property.
People who’ve never experienced this sort of treatment at the hands of the government should realize that this could happen to them, especially if we should not prevail in our lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice. As Americans, we should all be willing to fight this kind of robbery in the guise of economic development. You take for granted that, in America, you own your property until you choose to sell it, but that’s not the way it is in New London. If the City and the NLDC are allowed to get away with their unjust abuse of eminent domain in New London, no property owner in Connecticut will be safe. The knock at your door could be next.
Matt Dery and his family are fighting eminent domain takings of their homes in New London.