Port Chester Man's Challenge To Eminent Domain in Court Today: New York NY Sun, 3/19/07

By Joseph Goldstein

A Port Chester man will get his chance today to demand the return of his property, which was seized through eminent domain and is now a parking lot for a Stop and Shop supermarket.

The trial over a commercial property once owned by William Brody is expected to begin today in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, almost eight years after the village of Port Chester initiated a condemnation proceeding against it. The condemnation was part of a plan to make way for a 27-acre redevelopment project. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take a different case challenging the project. Both that case and the case going to trial today are being litigated by the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice.

Mr. Brody 's suit challenges whether the steps taken by Port Chester to notify property owners of the condemnation proceedings were sufficient. Mr. Brody has already won before a federal appeals court, which ruled in 2005 that Port Chester violated Mr. Brody's due process because it did not individually notify him, or others, of the condemnation of their land. Additionally, in the public notice it printed to alert residents of the condemnation, the village failed to mention that residents would lose their legal rights to appeal unless they filed papers within 30 days, the court ruled.

The issue remaining is whether Mr. Brody — despite the failure to notify him — was aware that his land was being condemned. Mr. Brody, according to court documents, was a vocal participant at community meetings regarding the redevelopment.

Any knowledge Mr. Brody had about the condemnation proceeding does not absolve the government of its responsibility to inform him, a lawyer for Mr. Brody, Dana Berliner, said.

Calling it an "important due process case," Ms. Berliner said, "Due process requires that if the government is going to take away your rights, it is going to tell you about it."

The responsibility, Ms. Berliner said in an interview, did not lie with Mr. Brody "to piece it all together."

Mr. Brody owned two lots, on which stood four buildings that he leased to local businesses. He had purchased the land in 1996.

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