Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don’t think this can happen to you?


Still don’t believe the city could force you to sell your property and then hand it over to a developer for its own private gain? Approximately 50% of Jersey City’s livable space is under a redevelopment plan. Check out the blue areas on the city’s zoning map. McGinley Square East makes Redevelopment Area Number 83 on the list. How often does this happen? This is the third time one McGinley Square property owner is being subjected to eminent domain. The last time it happened to him was in 2009 for a property downtown. Eminent domain has also been abused in the case of Mr. Cheng Tan and the Kerrigans.

Redevelopment is simply a pretty way of saying your property is blighted and an excuse for the city to invoke eminent domain to turn your property over to a private developer at a bargain price.

Do you know that your property can be declared blighted, regardless of the actual condition of your house? Houses that the city itself has declared in good and fair condition (meaning having no code violations, being well-maintained, not posing any hazards to the community) are being included in redevelopment plans all over Jersey City. The redevelopment label is being attached to properties, not because of their intrinsic condition, but because a private developer wants the land, as is the case with the McGinley Square East area.

Eminent domain for private development is a property owner’s nightmare because it involves a complex area of law. Challenges to eminent domain are very expensive and time-consuming to litigate. Also, the governing laws are technical and ever-changing. Lastly, the stakes run high: the developer’s opportunity for profit is immeasurable and the property owner faces permanent displacement from his home. As a sign of the times, advocates like the ACLU-NJ and the NJ Public Advocate (whose position was eliminated on July 1, 2010) are unable to assist due to budgetary constraints. Thankfully, The Institute for Justice in Washington, D.C. and the Castle Coalition have been working with NED to educate homeowners on the process of eminent domain. Property owners may have no choice but to foot the bill on their own.

Help stop eminent domain abuse in Jersey City before it happens to you. Support McGinley Square residents. YOU CAN SHOW YOUR SUPPORT BY SIGNING OUR PETITION ONLINE AT:

In addition, you can let your councilpersons know that eminent domain is the wrong way to change Jersey City. YOU CAN GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR COUNCILPERSONS by calling or sending email to:

Peter Brennan - Council President, 201-547-5319,

Ray Velazquez - Councilman at large, 201-547-5268,

Kalimah Ahmad - Councilwoman at large, 201-547-5137,

Mike Sottolano - Ward A, 201-547-5098,

Dave Donnelly - Ward B, 201-547-5092,

Nidia Lopez - Ward C, 201-547-5159,

William Gaughan - Ward D, 201-547-5485,

Steve Fulop - Ward E, 201-547-5315,

Viola Richardson - Ward F, 201-547-5361,

Slap in the face

What did the five fingers say to the face? Revelation made at private meeting with the city was a slap in property owners’ faces.

NED-McGinley Square representatives met with Mayor Healy in a private meeting today. We were joined by Councilwoman Viola Richardson, Ward F’s council person who has convinced the City Council to table the vote to blight our properties twice already. We also were accompanied by Peter Dickson, a prominent eminent domain attorney in NJ who generously offered us his help. In attendance were Mayor Healy, his chief of staff Rosemary McFadden, and representatives from the JC Planning Division.

NED went to the meeting hoping to strike a compromise with the city. From earlier community meetings with the Planning Division, our group was led to believe that the city could use its eminent domain power in a “patchwork” fashion. From our understanding, properties labeled in its Study [read the study: Blight Report) as being in “poor” condition would be declared areas in need of redevelopment (thus allowing the use of eminent domain) and properties labeled as being in “fair” or “good” condition would be declared areas in need of rehabilitation (thus preventing eminent domain use).

NED was reluctant to agree to the proposed compromise because it allowed the use of eminent domain on some of the properties. However, with the vote to blight the whole study area on August 10th fast approaching, this seemed to be the most feasible option for compromise. Imagine our surprise when the Planning Division suddenly reversed its former position and stated that this was not going to be possible.

At this time, it appears there is no room for negotiation with the city. If the resolution passes, NED property owners will have 45 days from the date of the vote on August 10th to contest the blight declaration and the legal battle will begin.