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.

My Photo
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."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

NOT Part of the Solution

A favorite and timeless quote from the sixties states, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

Unfortunately, a compromise bill crafted by State Senator Ronald Rice on eminent domain reform, which attempts to combine A-3257 and S-1975, the respective Assembly and Senate bills on this issue, contains so many changes in favor of developers that it is clearly part of the problem as opposed to even the beginning of a solution.

With the bill scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee this past Thursday, Rice surreptitiously added 63 pages of amendments to the bill after 5 PM Wednesday, changes that substantially weaken the bill and were rightly criticized by Public Advocate Ronald Chen, a strong opponent of eminent domain abuse.

Chen identified the following last minute changes to the bill as especially troublesome:

1. The new version does not limit the definition of blight and keeps language that would allow condemnation for properties that have "a lack of proper utilization."

2. The bill abandons a proposal to require government to prove eminent domain is necessary by a "preponderance" of evidence and reverts back to requiring only "substantial" evidence.

3. The bill removes a proposal to offer displaced families "replacement value" for taken homes.

Other developer-friendly changes in the bill include a provision making adoption of strict notice requirements for redevelopment areas contingent upon the passage of an amendment to Article VIII, Section 1, Paragraph 6 of the New Jersey Constitution. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow property tax-exemptions and abatements for periods longer than 5 years up and to 15 years. This latter provision means taxpayers paying their full share of taxes will effectively be subsidizing developers during the abatement period.

Additionally, the provisions of the amended bill would not take effect until four months after its passage. This provides a window of opportunity for developers and municipalities to rush through studies declaring areas in need of redevelopment, enactment of redevelopment plans, designation of redevelopers, approval of redevelopment agreements, and actual eminent domain proceedings.

The full text of the bill can be found at
Chen's testimony on the original S-1975 bill can be found at

It is only due to the bipartisan efforts of Democratic Senator Fred Madden, Jr. and Republican Senator Nicholas Asselta, who objected to a vote before legislators had had time to read the many changes in the bill, that the vote was postponed to a later date.

This provides more time for us to make a difference. Please contact Senator Rice's office directly at 1044 South Orange Avenue - Newark, NJ 07106 or call 973-371-5665 to express your concerns about this bill and make the recommendations that will restore it to being part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Join the movement to end eminent domain abuse in New Jersey. The next meeting of Stop Eminent Domain Abuse will take place on Sunday, April 15th at 2pm in Redeemer Lutheran Church, 3351 State Route 33, at the corner of Jumping Brook Road, Neptune, NJ 07753-3003. Elections for officers are scheduled to be held at this meeting.

For more information, contact Michelle Bobrow at , or Lori Ann Vendetti at

Directions: The Church is located at 3531 State Route 33, at the corner of Jumping Brook Rd in Neptune, about 1/2 mile east of GSP Exit 100 (Rt 33 east, Ocean Grove) and about 2.5 miles west of the interchange for Rt 18 and Rt 33. The group will also have T-shirts and bumper stickers for sale at the meeting, so please be prepared to buy a few if you can afford to. STOP EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE COALITION of NJ is on the rise !!!Spread the word. Visit