New Jersey authorities wanted to take a man’s Atlantic City home near Revel Casino through eminent domain, but a judge in the state is putting a stop to that, at least for now.
No soup for you, New Jersey
In a case that has garnered some national intention, a superior court judge in New Jersey has ruled that the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority cannot take the home of Charlie Birnbaum, a 68-year-old piano tuner, who runs his business out of his residence.
His home is near the now-closed Revel Casino Hotel, so that the state needed to take someone’s home who didn’t really want to leave seemed like a stretch. And Judge Julio Mendez agreed. The CRDA cannot take the home unless it comes up with a “concrete plan” for redevelopment of the land where Birnbaum’s home sits.
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Last November, Mendez said the state’s intention — folding the land into a tourism district in the wingspan of the now-closed Revel Casino Hotel _ was enough to warrant the seizure. But after hearing the 68-year-old Birnbaum express his desire to stay and his protests over the state’s lack of specific plans, Mendez changed his mind.
“The court shares Birnbaum’s concern about the uncertainty of the various plans for Atlantic City’s recovery and the ability of the CRDA to implement the plan that justifies the taking of the Birnbaum property,” Mendez wrote in his opinion. “The court lacks confidence that the plans as presented here will be effectuated in light of the uncertainty surrounding Atlantic City, the economic conditions of Atlantic City, and the pending legislation.”
Kicking out residents from AC?
Mendez went even further, pointing out the hypocrisy of Atlantic City trying to displace someone who was willing to stay in the city, which has fallen on tough economic times. Birnbaum’s attorney, Robert McNamara, picked up on that theme after the decision. Philly.com again:
“Certainly with the current state of Atlantic City, it seems like the last thing you would want to do is drive out a property owner who loves his property,” McNamara said. “And if there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that Atlantic City needs more people who love it, not fewer.”
The house has been in Birnbaum’s family since 1969.
Waiting on Christie
Part of the reason why there’s no plan for the home? According to the CRDA, it is waiting on Gov. Chris Christie to pass a package of legislation meant to help Atlantic City.
Those bills, however, have been on Christie’s desk for nearly two months. while the governor is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination.
The Associated Press reported that “the agency will review whether to move forward with the project after Christie decides what to do with the legislation on his desk and its future funding is sorted out. Depending on those changes, he said, the agency also will consider appealing Mendez’s ruling.”
The status of the Revel casino, which was bought four months ago, still remains very much up in the air, regardless of the prospects of the relief package aimed at AC.