The state can’t seize Atlantic City piano tuner’s house with eminent domain, court rules

“A New Jersey appellate court has sided with Atlantic City piano tuner Charlie Birnbaum in his long-running fight to keep his family home in the shadow of the Ocean Resort casino from being seized by the state through eminent domain.

His advocates hailed the decision, released in a 29-page ruling Friday, as another salvo in a “nationwide … backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the infamous case of Kelo v. City of New London, which allowed the government to take people’s homes for private development.”

“Since Kelo was decided, greater judicial and legislative scrutiny of redevelopment-based takings has occurred,” the court wrote in Friday’s ruling.

Birnbaum retained the right to keep the home his parents, who were Holocaust survivors, bought in 1969, because the state’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority could not provide assurance that its plans for the property and surrounding area “would proceed in the reasonably foreseeable future,” the court ruled.

A CRDA spokesperson said the agency would “respect the court’s decision.”

When the case was first decided in 2016, the casino, then called Revel, had declared bankruptcy and shut down. It has since reopened as Ocean Resort but is still plagued by financial problems. A New York hedge fund that was one of its largest lenders recently took control from Denver developer Bruce Deifik as losses continued to mount.

The area around casino, once known as Pauline’s Prairie, remains largely undeveloped, though the Boardwalk as it runs by and around it toward the inlet, facing Brigantine, has been handsomely rebuilt and a North Jersey developer is leasing new apartments. Under Gov. Phil Murphy, the CRDA has largely shifted its focus from land acquisition and has sought to auction off some of its tax-exempt holdings.”
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Rosenberg, Amy. The Inquirer 15 February 2019.