Allow me to take this opportunity to address Mr. Juan Lijo's letter of Feb. 20 to the Essex Forum regarding the Mulberry Street Project and the potential use of the "eminent domain" law for private development.
As the councilman of Newark's East ward, where the project is scheduled to be built, I welcome Mr. Lijo's call for an investigation into the alleged relationship between the developers and some elected officials from Newark. Notwithstanding the fact that my campaign fund was the recipient of a donation from the New Jersey Redevelopment Corp. prior to the introduction of the project before the city council, I must remind Mr. Lijo and inform everyone that I voted against the project...twice.
The reasons for the way I voted were made very clear in all the opportunities we had to discuss the project and vote on it. I simply did not believe then, and I do not believe now, that the concept of "eminent domain" should be used for the benefit of private development. In addition, I suggested to my council colleagues that the matter should not be voted on by the council until the New London case is decided by the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
As I stated publicly, the decision I made on this issue was based solely on a comparison between the interests of those most affected by the project: homeowners who bought their properties in the '60s and '70s and turned a deplorable area into a livable community, through their effort and perseverance, and the interests and intentions of the developers. And, although somewhat intrigued by the importance and benefits that a project of this nature can bring to the area and to the city, ultimately, I could not overlook the fact that those who have invested in that community in the past need to be treated with the respect they have gathered along the way.
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