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."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Protest Halper Family's Eviction

There are some things that are so wrong, so unjust, so evil that they demand a response. Such is the travesty scheduled to take place this Monday, July 10, when the Halpers, a family with four children, are scheduled to be evicted from their family farm of 84 years with no financial compensation whatsoever (all is frozen indefinitely) and no relocation assistance. As of 3 PM that day, abuse of eminent domain by Piscataway Township will render them homeless.

Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler has shown no concern for the plight of this family with three quarters of a century of history in the township. He sees nothing wrong in taking the only thing they have, their land, by force--meaning by force of armed sheriff's officers--and leaving six innocent people on the streets. Whatever one's political views, there is no way such an action can be justified, ever. This is not a political issue; it is a human issue, one that "cries before the eyes of God."

More than sixty-five years ago, both my parents' families lost everything they owned, fleeing armed Nazis who turned guns on children. Like many others, they came to the United States, the land of the free, seeking a refuge where they believed such a travesty could never happen.

Now it is happening. And while today it's property and livelihood rather than life itself being taken, make no mistake: it is the dark shadow of fascism, of a government that bullies citizens by force of arms rather than benignly rules by the consent of the governed. This is not the vision our founding fathers and mothers had when they fought the Revolution we celebrated only days ago. Make no mistake: any of our homes and businesses could be next. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

That is why I am asking all who can to take part in this weekend protest against the Halpers' eviction and against eminent domain abuse. The information is below. People are especially needed on Monday, July 10, the date of the eviction. This is our chance to stand up to evil and stand up for justice. We have the power. Please, come and voice your support for this family and your opposition to this travesty. Logistics information is below:

Supporters of Piscataway Township’s Halper family, who stand to be evicted from their 75-acre farm of 84 years, will gather in tents and RVs on the farm in a Woodstock-like protest beginning Saturday, July 8 and continuing until the scheduled eviction onMonday, July 10 at 3 PM.

Described as “Valley Forge without the frostbite andWoodstock without the mud,” the three-day protest will feature musicians, comedians, and other performers who will join opponents ofeminent domain abuse from around the state and country.

On Monday, supporters of the Halpers, a family of six including four children, will peacefully form a chain, described asa “Human Constitution,” around the house at 4 Bella Drive when policearrive to claim the property.

The family has received none of the financial “just compensation” required by law and awarded them by a judge and juryand are being given no relocation assistance by Piscataway Townshipin conjunction with the eviction. SOME is IN ESCROW and frozen.

The human chain is being called a “Human Constitution” because citizens will be doing what the US Constitution should havedone for this family, namely protect their property. HOWEVER, THE FAMILY NOTICED SO MANY CONFLICTS OF INTEREST IN THE COURT CASE THAT THEY HIRED SEPARATE ATTORNEYS JUST TO PURSUE THIS ISSUE.

An eight year battle, the Halper’s fight to save their farm was instrumental in the notorious “Machiavelli” incident that sent Democratic fundraiser David D’Amiano to jail and led to GovernorJames E. McGreevey’s resignation.

Piscataway officials claim they are taking the property for open space, but as a farm, it is already open space. The Halpers are committed to preserving it, have turned down offers from developers,and have even unsuccessfully tried to sell development rights for the land to the state of New Jersey.

In spite of this commitment, Piscataway Township has relentlessly sought this property and has obtained several million intaxpayer dollars from Middlesex County to subsidize the taking. Surrounding lands are rapidly being sold to developers forhigh-density housing, and many believe that township officials planto sell this land to add to those developments within several years.

Accusations by township officials that the land is contaminated and a “toxic waste dump” have no basis in fact, as the only chemicals found on the land are mosquito control pesticides usedby the township during the winter.

Concerned citizens and volunteers are asked to join insolidarity with the Halpers and express their outrage over the eviction beginning Saturday, July 8. Participants are especially sought for Monday, July 10 beginning at 11 AM. Anyone interested in participating and any media outletsinterested in covering the protest should call 310-593-4843 or Regular updates on the situation are available at