Kelo Anniversary - A night of cinema and citizen action at the Jersey Shore Arts Center on June 22, 2007

Dana Berliner, Co–Counsel landmark Kelo Case, Joins Asbury Park Filmmaker on Panel

The Castle Coalition in partnership with the Stop Eminent Domain Abuse Coalition of New Jersey (StopEDA.org) and state and local activists will commemorate Kelo Day, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that broadly expanded the use of eminent domain for private development with a program celebrating citizen action.

The program, to be held Friday, June 22, 7pm at the Jersey Shore Arts Center in Ocean Grove, will feature a panel discussion with Dana Berliner, litigator for the public-interest law firm the Institute for Justice and co-counsel on the Kelo vs. New London case. The program also features a call to action for a state-wide moratorium on eminent domain abuse, and a special in-the-works screening of Greetings from Asbury Park, a documentary feature film by Asbury Park native Christina Eliopoulos about the price of progress in her hometown and her family’s struggle with eminent domain abuse.

In the wake of the Kelo decision, more than 41 states have enacted legislation
aimed at limiting the abuse of eminent domain, hoping to give tenants and property owners greater protection, participation and compensation

Across New Jersey, more than 115 municipalities have the authority to use eminent domain in “areas in need of redevelopment.” With this designation, private homes and businesses can be taken and given to private development companies for private development, like luxury condominiums and big-box stores.

The Institute for Justice, in its yearly report card on individual states, gave New Jersey an “F” for its track record of eminent domain abuse.

In its report, the Institute for Justice states that “New Jersey desperately needs reform, as the State’s Public Advocate admitted in his recent report. In particular, the criteria used to declare an area “in need of redevelopment,” a designation that triggers the power of eminent domain, are so broad that most every New Jersey property is subject to acquisition.” The report goes on to say that “ New Jersey is one of the nation’s worst eminent domain abusers and is one of the states with the most work to do in the legislature.”

The Institute for Justice, based in Arlington, Virginia represents homeowners in Long Branch’s Marine Terrace Ocean Terrace Seaview Avenue area (MTOTSA). The City of Long Branch, New Jersey is trying to seize the well-kept beachfront homes of senior citizens and families to give their land to a private developer.

Featured panelist Dana Berliner serves as a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, where she has worked as a lawyer since 1994. She litigates property rights, economic liberty and other constitutional cases in both federal and state courts. She represented the home and business owners in Norwood, Ohio, who, on July 26, 2006, secured a unanimous ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court that the city could not take their property for a privately-owned shopping mall and “lifestyle center.”

Along with co-counsel Scott Bullock, Ms. Berliner represented the homeowners in the recent decision in Kelo v. New London, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cities could condemn property because other uses may produce an increase in tax dollars and jobs. She also recently secured a ruling that the Village of Port Chester, N.Y., violated due process in its use of eminent domain to secure waterfront property. Her first eminent domain case was a successful challenge to the use of eminent domain to take Vera Coking’s Atlantic City home for limousine parking for a neighboring Trump hotel and casino.

Greetings from Asbury Park, a documentary feature film, began filming in Asbury Park in 2001. Over the past five years, the filmmakers have interviewed over 40 local residents, historians, artists, musicians, community leaders as well as numerous national public policy experts and distinguished scholars. Director Christina Eliopoulos interviews her hometown neighbors and three generations of her family. The film, a work in progress, will be completed shortly and make its debut on the festival circuit in the fall of 2007.

Lori AnnVendetti, co-chair of the The StopEDA Coalition of New Jersey and co-sponsor of the event, called the Kelo Day event “a monumental opportunity for eminent domain activists from all corners of the state to come together and take a stand for our constitutional rights to our homes and property.” Ms. Vendetti, who owns a home in Long Branch’s MTOTSA neighborhood, said “everyone has to realize that it’s my home today, but it could be your home tomorrow.”

The suggested donation for the event is $20, $10 for students and senior citizens. Reservations are required. Please call (732) 380-1592. All proceeds will cover costs of the evening. The Jersey Shore Arts Center is located on Main Street and Main Avenue in Ocean Grove.

For more information about "Greetings From Asbury Park," call Kerry Margaret Butchcell at 732-306-8701; for additional details about the Stop Eminent Domain Abuse Coalition of New Jersey, contact Lori Ann Vendetti at 973-699-0375.