This Is Totally Wrong: New London CT Day, 3/2/07

By Elaine Stoll

Michael Cristofaro stood in the rain for several hours Friday as a backhoe tore into his father's former house at Fort Trumbull. “If my dad knew this, it would kill him today,” he said, watching the demolition of 53 Goshen St. with occasional tears and a few angry words. “This is totally wrong.”

The city seized Pasquale Cristofaro's Goshen Street property in 2000 when it exercised eminent domain as part of a municipal development plan that called for economic development including a hotel, office space and rental housing. He joined six other plaintiffs in suing the city in the case Kelo v. City of New London, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of the city in 2005.

The Cristofaro family reached a settlement over possession of the property on June 30, 2006, but that hasn't ended Michael Cristofaro's resolve to fight eminent domain. “Until the last breath leaves me, I will fight eminent domain use forever,” he said. Cristofaro was joined by Kathleen Mitchell and by Susette Kelo, lead plaintiff in the eminent domain lawsuit whose controversial court ruling reverberated around the country. To date, 34 states have passed legislation or approved constitutional amendments to restrict the use of eminent domain for economic development.

“It's too bad the city never figured out this was wrong. The whole country figured it out,” Kelo said. Several police officers stretched yellow tape in front of the house to protect onlookers from demolition debris, they said, and they remained on scene through the demolition.

Michael Cristofaro alleged that police had earlier threatened to put him in handcuffs. “They said, 'You don't want a picture of you being arrested.' I said, 'Do you think being arrested is the worst thing that's going to happen today?' ” None of the three protesters was arrested.

Barberi Brothers Demolition of Waterford demolished the former Cristofaro property Friday as well as a rental house next door at 49 Goshen St., formerly owned by Richard Beyer's company, Pataya Construction. A day earlier, Salecon LLC of Salem felled 41 Goshen St., also formerly owned by Pataya Construction.

The New London Development Corp. has a $63,510 contract with Barberi Brothers Demolition for asbestos abatement and demolition of 49 and 53 Goshen St. and 44 and 46 Smith St., said NLDC Fort Trumbull Project Manager John Brooks. A $12,494 contract with Salecon covered the demolition of 41 Goshen St. Following the demolitions, the NLDC will be able to complete Chelsea and Walbach streets and grade a soil stockpile onto the parcel, he said.

Michael Cristofaro alleged Friday that the NLDC has not met its obligation, outlined in the settlement agreement, to transplant shrubs at 53 Goshen St. to another location and said the demolition equipment had damaged some of the plants. His brother is awaiting a response to complaints made to the governor's office, he said.

NLDC President Michael Joplin said the state arborist visited Fort Trumbull months ago and found that the shrubs are “post-mature” and cannot successfully be moved. In lieu of moving the plants, an agreement had been reached to provide the Cristofaro family with a $10,000 credit toward new shrubs, Joplin said.

New London CT Day: www.theday.com

The following is a statement by Michael Cristofaro. His family's home in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London was demolished as described above was by the quasi-public New London Development Corporation (NLDC) using the government power of eminent domain.

Just thought I will send this out. NLDC will never learn that lying will get you nowhere. They demolished my dad's property Friday. They picked a day which they knew few people would make it out and made sure that no one knew about the demolishing.

The state and NLDC have not kept their word on the stipulation of moving the plants or installing the plaque honoring my mom. It was so heart breaking to see the demolishing crew just grabbed the plants and threw them out of their way with no concern that it took years of care to get them that way.

Joplin's quote [was that] "the state arborist visited Fort Trumbull months ago and found that the shrubs are “post-mature” and cannot successfully be moved. In lieu of moving the plants, an agreement had been reached to provide the Cristofaro family with a $10,000 credit toward new shrubs" The state arborist did show and stated that they all can be moved and we have not agreed on $10,000. I will be demanding a retraction and an apology next week. This is far from being over.

I also wanted to share this bit of info that happen on Friday while they were tearing the house down. John Brooks(NLDC) who is in charge of Fort Trumbull development was standing across the street from the house. A big rat ran across the street and ran over his feet and then ran back into the rumble. I yelled over said, "Rats find other rats". I pray that each and everyone of this individuals will get what they deserve one day. I will continue to fight this abuse until all property owners are safe in their homes again.