Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Defiling our Forefathers

The Powerful Rich are displacing, ripping off, and sending the poorer to containment camps and prisons.

BYRON ATHENIAN, who lives in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London, holds the notice he received giving him 30 days to move out. The New London Development Corp. is taking property in the waterfront neighborhood for private development.

Sep. 13, 2005
Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant

Battle Lost, Eviction Starts Defiance Persists In Fort Trumbull
September 14, 2005 By LYNNE TUOHY, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

Residents of New London's Fort Trumbull peninsula have been served with orders to move out by mid-December, signaling the end of the line for the diehards who narrowly lost their eminent domain battle before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The letters from the New London Development Corp. stirred a tempest of emotions and a crossfire of recriminations between lawyers for the seven homeowners and officials of the NLDC, with each side accusing the other of lying.

Meanwhile the homeowners, who lost their court battle but won national recognition for their cause, have vowed to keep up the fight."They are going to have to pull my cold fingers from that house before they take it," Michael Cristofaro said of the Goshen Street home owned by his elderly father, Pasquale.

"We're not going to give it up unless the legislature says that nothing else can be done."

But the homeowners have exhausted their legal remedies and have little left in their arsenal but the strength of their convictions.

In fact, calling them "homeowners" is a misnomer. The NLDC has held title to their homes since 2000, with the compensation paid for those homes put into an escrow fund as the legal fight raged.

The NLDC maintains that it is time to fulfill the promise of increased jobs and tax revenue through private development of the 90-acre waterfront site, adjacent to the recently opened global research facility of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.

"It's time to move forward for the benefit of all the citizens of New London and begin the transformation of the Fort Trumbull area," NLDC President Michael Joplin said.

"New London taxpayers have waited patiently to receive the significant public, economic and environmental benefits of this long-overdue development project."

Tuesday's developments in New London played against a national backdrop that illustrates the charged atmosphere wrought by the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in June.

In Washington, D.C., U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts was peppered by Senators with questions about the eminent domain ruling and the circumstances under which he believes private property may be taken by government agencies for "public use."

Also Tuesday, a judge in Arizona ruled against attempts by the city of Tempe to condemn and take homes, by eminent domain, for the private development of a large retail complex.

In the New London case, the high court expanded the power of government agencies to take homes for economic redevelopment, even by private developers. The court ruled that a municipality's quest for increased tax revenue and employment justifies the taking of even non-blighted property and satisfies the "public use" requirement of the Constitution's takings clause.

Dissenting justices and critics of the ruling said it leaves virtually every property owner vulnerable to condemnation proceedings and voids the very constitutional provision on which it turns - one invoked primarily in the past to build roads, schools and other projects that tangibly benefited the public.

The Institute for Justice - a non-profit powerhouse in the battle against what it describes as eminent domain abuses - continues to represent the seven families who own 13 homes still standing on the largely rubble-strewn Fort Trumbull peninsula. Attorney Scott Bullock of the institute accused the NLDC of reneging on a promise made to Connecticut lawmakers in July to abide by a voluntary moratorium on taking property until the legislature could overhaul its statutes.

"It's a slap in the face to the governor, to the legislature and to the people of Connecticut," Bullock said.

NLDC spokesman Jeff Leichtman countered that the institute's accusations were "outrageous."

"We did agree to abide by a voluntary state moratorium on new eminent domain takings until the legislature reviews this matter, and will continue to do so," Leichtman said.

"But we always reserved our rights to continue to develop the land we already owned. ... The Institute for Justice is misleading its clients in New London into believing that any future changes in eminent domain laws will allow them to regain their properties."

The U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 22 denied a request by the Institute for Justice to reconsider the case. After that, Leichtman said, the NLDC set in motion the final steps for obtaining the houses.

The state Supreme Court last year ruled unanimously that taking private homes for private redevelopment projects could satisfy the "public use" clause of the Constitution's eminent domain provision, but split 4-3 on whether the Fort Trumbull project could guarantee sufficient public payback to invoke the takings provision.

The three homeowners in the section of Fort Trumbull known as Parcel 3 received notices this week that they had to move by Dec. 8 or, in the case of Byron Athenian, by Oct. 12. Leichtman said Athenian was served with notice to move in 2000, so his three-month notice period ended long ago.

The four homeowners on Parcel 4 - encompassing nine homes, including that of lead plaintiff Susette Kelo - will receive their notices to move shortly.In the notices, the NLDC told residents they would be expected to pay rent in the amount of $600 per month from now until they moved. The corporation also is likely to deduct from the residents' escrow holdings rent for the past five years.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who called for the voluntary moratorium, said through a spokesman Tuesday that she continues to hope the remaining homes on Fort Trumbull can be saved. She also supports a special legislative session to debate the issue, the spokesman said.

Richard Beyer, a developer who owns two houses in Parcel 3, said tenants who have a newborn received an eviction notice addressed to "occupant."

"These guys need to learn when to treat human beings like human beings, not like barn animals," Beyer said of the NLDC.

"This is their trademark. They go in and disrupt people's lives."

We're not abiding by it," Beyer said. "We're not throwing in the towel."

To comment on this story, or to request a correction click here to send a message to Karen Hunter, The Courant's reader representative. Click here to read Karen's daily Weblog.

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Those counting on you to be naïve sheeple

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In Defense Of Private Property
Hundreds In New London (Connecticut) Oppose Seizure Of Homes For DevelopmentJuly 6, 2005 By LAUREN PHILLIPS, Hartford Courant Staff Writer


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