For five years during World War II, Louis Anzalone lived in military barracks. When he was discharged from the service, he bought his one and only home, on Ocean Terrace in the city.
Last night, Anzalone, and his wife, Lillian, both 88, came to the City Council meeting to say no deal to a proposal from the developer of the second phase of Beachfront North, who sent residents there a letter offering to discuss the possibility they could receive a condominium in exchange for their homes.
Anzalone and his wife were not alone last night in rejecting any proposal that calls for the destruction of some 26 homes in the area that has come to be known as MTOTSA -- for Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace, Seaview Avenue Alliance. The area also includes vacant land. Residents there have organized to fight the redevelopment.
The meeting room was crowded with people wearing "Shame on Long Branch" T-shirts and "End Eminent Domain Abuse" buttons. There were standing ovations when people they agreed with spoke and catcalls during the remainder of the meeting.
Roger Mumford, president of Matzel & Mumford, which along with Hoboken-based Applied Development Co., has preliminary approval to build oceanfront housing in the residential neighborhood, authored the letter, which all residents received.
"It is the city's intent, and ours, that longtime owner-occupants have an opportunity to stay in the area," Mumford wrote. "We realize that some of you exist on a fixed income and have lived for many years in your home. It is our hope that for these owner-occupants, we can put together a realistic plan that may include providing you with a condominium in one of our elevator-serviced buildings. Such an agreement would address any concerns you may have about property taxes and condominium fees."
Mumford said the developer also was interested in meeting with those who own investment properties, vacant land or those who purchased and moved into homes after the city formally designated the area for redevelopment in May 1996 to see if a "mutually beneficial arrangement" could be reached.
Oct. 15 is the deadline.
Anzalone said he was rejecting the developer's proposal because his current home was "better and nicer than anything you or the builder can ever provide.
"Now, in the twilight of my life, I have no intention to live in some condo that looks to me like Army barracks with elevator service," he said.
Lori Vendetti, who lives part of the year in Long Branch and part in Newark, said it is possible the city is no longer negotiating with the MTOTSA group in good faith. The group put together a competing plan that proposes "revitalization" of the neighborhood, but City Attorney James G. Aaron has written to them requesting more information.
"They are the ones who stopped negotiating with us," said Mayor Adam Schneider after the meeting.
The big hero of the night was Scott Bullock, who is a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit Washington firm that fights eminent domain abuse.
"We're watching very closely what is happening in Long Branch, and we're going to do everything in our power to make sure these fine people stay in their homes," said Bullock, who stopped short of saying he would represent the residents.
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