By Christine Varno
A Long Branch couple living in one of the city’s oceanfront redevelopment zones is hoping to add to the voices opposing the use of eminent domain by the city.
Harold and Michelle Bobrow, Ocean Boulevard, are scheduled to host the first meeting of the Beachfront South Coalition this weekend at their residence at 295 Ocean Blvd., unit 5, at 11 a.m.
“We are anticipating a number of people will attend,” said Harold Bobrow. “If only two people show, that’s OK too. We will work with whoever shows.”
According to the Bobrows, the new coalition will have two goals, “to stop eminent domain abuse and to obtain equitable compensation for property if taken.”
The coalition is open to all interested parties, including individuals who do not live in the Beachfront South area or any redevelopment zone he added.
“If other people want to join who think eminent domain abuse is wrong, they can come too,” he said.
Beachfront South is a 12-acre tract of land that extends from Bath Avenue to Morris Avenue between Ocean Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, which is slated for eminent domain.
In August, K. Hovnanian Shore Acquisitions, Middletown, was designated as the redeveloper of the zone. Plans call for a $300 million project that includes razing the existing neighborhood of approximately 30 properties and construction of five buildings with 350 units in its place.
The new units will range in cost from $400,000 up to more than $2.2 million.
At a January council meeting, Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider said the city is 80 percent of the way to signing a contract with the developers.
The Bobrows, who have lived in their home for 15 years, say what is being done is wrong.
“I would have no problem if the city had to take my home for eminent domain to build a school, or a hospital, or even to widen a road for some reason,” Harold Bobrow said. “There are certain things that are for the better of the community.
“Telling me that taking the right of an individual to live in their home so other people can live in more expensive homes, I cannot agree with that. I think that is just wrong.”
The Beachfront South residents are not alone in their feelings.
Another group, MTOTSA (Marine and Ocean Terraces and Seaview Avenue), which is made up of residents living in the city’s Beachfront North, phase II, redevelopment zone, formed a coalition more than a year ago for the same cause.
MTOTSA recently hosted a rally to show support for the plaintiff in an eminent domain case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court has begun hearing arguments in Kelo vs. New London, Conn., a suit in which a homeowner is fighting the taking of her home on the New London waterfront through eminent domain for a private development corporation to redevelop the land.
The Bobrows were among 250 supporters at the local rally on Feb. 20, two days before the Supreme Court began its hearings.
“When you form together you can create a voice and be heard,” Harold Bobrow said.
For that reason, the Bobrows said they are ready to get their neighborhood involved and form a group of residents to meet monthly to fight eminent domain abuse.
One Beachfront South resident, who is the fourth generation living in her Ocean Avenue home, said she has high hopes for the coalition.
“We have been working closely with MTOTSA, but Beachfront South has yet to form a coalition of its own,” Katina Tsakiris said. “I am really happy that Harold is doing this because we have been running on the wake of MTOTSA.”
“We hope to get the word out and end the abuse of eminent domain.”
“We hope [the coalition] will have an impact on the city government and promote public awareness of the abuse of eminent domain,” Michelle Bobrow said.
“As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘If united we stand, divided we fall.’ ”
Harold Bobrow said the couple is trying to do something positive.
“If we can get people together to form a group to fight [eminent domain abuse], then we can have [the city] listen,” Harold said.
“I am not rolling over and playing dead,” he said. “I will not do it. I do not want to sell, and no one should be able to take my home by interpreting the law this way.”