Blog for Highland Park

Welcome to the Blog for Highland Park, a weblog chronicling events in Highland Park, NJ from an alternative perspective to the often one-sided slant of the official borough newsletter.

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Location: Highland Park, New Jersey, United States

I am a freelance writer and community activist who has worked on many progressive and Democratic political campaigns over the last 25 plus years and a lifelong resident of Highland Park, NJ. I have a BA in Journalism from Rutgers University, an MA in Middle East Studies from Harvard University, and an MEd in English Education from Rutgers Graduate School of Education. An enthusiastic amateur astronomer, I have just completed Swinburne University Astronomy Online's Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy and am pursuing a Masters of Science in astronomy at Swinburne. I am also an actress with experience in theatre and film and have written a full length play. I am currently working full time on a book "The Little Planet That Would Not Die: Pluto's Story."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Join Us at NJ Coalition Against Eminent Domain Abuse

The press release below outlines the formation of the New Jersey Coalition Against Eminent Domain Abuse, which took place this past weekend, interestingly, almost exactly one year to the day of our anti-eminent domain abuse protest in Highland Park at Sunoco last year. I am proud to say that activists from Highland Park participated in this founding meeting. The coalition will be meeting every month in a different NJ location threatened by eminent domain abuse. The next meeting is Saturday, March 18 in Camden at 10 AM (details on location TBA). We are building a grassroots coalition to end this injustice that disproportionately harms people of color and those with low and moderate incomes to benefit wealthy, politically connected developers. Please join us in this quest for economic and social justice. Contact Bill Potter, Princeton University professor and Coalition Chair, at (609) 921-9555 or email him at to find out how you can get involved. You can also learn more by visiting Let's put Highland Park in the forefront of this movement for change!


At an all day citizens forum on eminent domain abuse held in Princeton on Saturday, February 18, 2006, representatives from throughout New Jersey voted unanimously to establish the "New Jersey Coalition Against Eminent Domain Abuse."

Among the 75 (approx.) people who attended the conference, hosted by the Princeton Justice Project (a Princeton University undergraduate student group), were representatives from 3 states (New Jersey, New York, Pa.) and 25 New Jersey municipalities which have active "redevelopment" projects underway that threaten the eminent domain taking of homes and businesses, including farms.

Among the 25 New Jersey municipalities represented in the Coalition are Camden, Carteret, Trenton, Long Branch, Asbury Park, Somers Point, Highland Park, Lodi, Bound Brook, Westmont, Moorestown, Ventnor, Wildwood, West Windsor, Burlington, Mount Holly, Pennsauken, Linden, Neptune, Riverton, Piscataway, and Maplewood. From Pennsylvania are representatives from Philadelphia and Coatesville, as well as New York City.

The Coalition agreed on an initial set of "goals" and "action items" as follows;

Either the Governor by executive order or the Legislature by statute must impose an immediate moratorium on any further eminent domain takings of property that have been swept into broadly conceived "redevelopment areas" and include residential properties (both owner occupied and rental) and local businesses.
The Coalition is aware of several examples of egregious and cruel eminent domain abuse such as the following:
-- the proposal to place the entire City of Camden in a redevelopment zone, including an attack on the Cramer Hill neighborhood, which threatens to displace 1,200 low and moderate income, mostly black and Hispanic households from the neighborhood,.
-- the plan to remove residents, including retirees on fixed incomes, living in Long Branch, Asbury Park and Neptune City to make way for upper income limited condominiums by the ocean front.
-- the taking of active farmland in Piscataway to make way for intensive development
-- and many others.

The 1992 "Local Redevelopment and Housing Law" (LRHL) is being used by more than 65 municipalities across the state, with more added each week, to declare homes and businesses "redevelopment areas" which is the legalized euphemism for "blighted areas" when these sites and areas are not in fact sources of blight.
As a result of the "redevelopment area" designation municipalities obtain near dictatorial powers over local residents, taxpayers and businesses.
These powers include
-- power of eminent domain for "economic development" purposes, meaning take the land and buildings, pay what is called "just compensation" to the owners (even if it is but a fraction of the market value and not enough for the residents to purchase replacement housing nearby or within the area as redeveloped), evict the residents, and then transfer the property to a "redeveloper" who has been selected by the municipality without competitive bidding
-- destruction of thousands of units of low and moderate housing, notwithstanding New Jersey's strong "Mount Laurel" doctrine
-- avoidance of competitive bidding laws which open the door to "pay to play" favoritism and worse
-- passage of costly bond issues to pay for the redevelopment and without referendum even if voters obtain the required number of petition signatures, and
-- granting of long term "tax abatements" to the new private development which means the project, no matter how profitable, will not pay for school taxes or county taxes.
For further discussion of the Coalition, please feel free to speak with the person who is handing out this press release or contact the state coordinator, Bill Potter at Potter & Dickson, 609-921-9555 or email at ""

Friday, February 17, 2006

Take Action on Open Government and Eminent Domain Abuse

Open Government:

State Senator Robert Martin (R-Morris, Passaic) has introduced legislation intended to make public meetings and records more accessible to the public throughout the entire state. The bill is S1219 and it would lead to a broad reform of the Open Public Meetings Act. The entire text of S1219 can be found at The website also has other information about the bill, and there also is a petition that people interested in transparency in government might consider signing. Go to: and please pass this message along to others.

Eminent Domain Abuse:

The Princeton Justice Project has agreed to co sponsor a STATEWIDE COALITION meeting this Saturday, February 18, from 9 AM-2 PM to work on creating a coalition to oppose eminent domain abuse in New Jersey. Suggested schedule is as follows:

Some issues to to be considered include the name of our coalition, creation of a formal organization, coalition goals, publicity, and direct action. Goals under consideration include support of a statewide moratorium on ED, at least as it pertains to private property (e.g., homes and businesses) for economic development; a petition to Gov. Corzine for an executive order declaring the moratorium; legislating a moratorium; obtaining strong bipartisan sponsorship; reforming the 1992 Local Redevelopment and Housing Law which has ushered in this "post-Kelo" frenzy; targeting key legislators and districts; and forming coalitions with other groups and interests.

Princeton University is providing Bowl 1 in the Woodrow Wilson School building (Robertson Hall) on campus. This facility is made possible only because the Princeton Justice Project students are the official sponsors and hosts. PJP strongly supports numerous justice-related projects.

1. If you are taking NJ Transit: Detrain at Princeton Junction; then take the "PJ&B" also known as the "Dinky" which is a very short connector or shuttle train that takes you to the university campus. Walk to your right, heading north/east through campus; ask students for exact directions to Robertson Hall (too hard to explain here but a very nice walk in good weather).

2. If you drive from the South:Take Route 295 or 95 (either one) until you hit Route One, heading east (sign may say "north," same direction), until you come to Washington Road - Princeton Central Business Distinct.Go left (jug handle turn from right) onto Washington Road and proceed in a straight line due north -- across two bodies of water (D&R canal and Lake Carnegie), past the light at Faculty Road, past another light at Western Way, until you come to the light at PROSPECT (which is a "T" intersection coming into Washington Rd. from your right).Robertson Hall is on the Northeast corner of Prospect and Washington Road; it looks like (some say) a giant white radiator or bike rack. The "bowls" are in the basement. Enter through any door.

3. Parking: Either park on Prospect Avenue, OR proceed to the next street past the intersection with Prospect (only a 100 yards further north), which is William Street. Turn right at William and then left into the large surface parking lot; park on the right side.4. If you drive from the North: Take the turnpike to Exit 9 (New Brunswick, Rutgers, Route 18); take Route 18 north (right lane), then switch quickly to the "left fork" in the road, and look for the next exit which is to Route One South; take it! Proceed on Route One south (or west) for about 10 miles until you reach Washington Road, then do as above. We will have the Bowl 1 (downstairs) from 9 to 4:00 but a 10:00 start time is planned to allow for travel.


Remember, we have the power! Let's take it back!