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, May 30, 2008

Film Tomorrow Night Depicts Reality of Eminent Domain Abuse

Tomorrow night, Saturday, May 31, at 7 PM, the Rutgers International Film Festival will show "Greetings from Asbury Park," a 90-minute 2007 film directed by Christina Eliopolous, at Scott Hall, Room 123, College Avenue Campus, 43 College Avenue, New Brunswick. The film centers on the story of Angie, a 91-year-old woman who lived in Asbury Park over 30 years only to find her small home now threatened with eminent domain for a 56-acre redevelopment project. In the words of Eliopoulos:

"Angie, 91, lived through three decades of rust, riot and ruin in Asbury Park, the one-time postcard paradise of the Jersey Shore. Now the tiny bungalow that she has called home, for half her life, will be seized by eminent domain. Hundreds of homes, apartment buildings, local businesses, are boarded up, ready for the wrecking ball. In fact, 29 city blocks, 56 acres of waterfront property and historic boardwalk attractions now belong to a private developer and will be razed to make way for 3,100 luxury condominiums, an ersatz city within a city.But this is welcome progress, and terrific tax revenues, say city officials. The revitalized Asbury Park will be a thrilling combination of SoHo and South Beach. Meanwhile, the bulldozers are in Angie's backyard, and Angie's attorney breaks the news to her. A court case challenge is difficult and costly. This could be the last summer her beloved garden will be in bloom. 'I came to the United States a displaced person, and I will be again a displaced person,' she says sadly.'"

You can find more information about the film at

Also being shown at tomorrow night's film festival are "Too Lost to Find," a 12-minute 2008 documentary on a group of homeless people living on the streets of Hackensack, directed by Bonnie Blake, and "Woven Ways," a 49-minute 2007 film on environmental issues that threaten the health and well being of the Navaho people, directed by Linda Helm Krapf.

All three directors will be present at the showing.

Tickets are $10 for general admission; $9 for students and seniors; and $8 for Rutgers Film Co-op/NJMAC Friends.

If you want to get involved in fighting the injustice of eminent domain abuse, take advantage of a day of training provided by the Castle Coalition only one week later, on Saturday, June 7, from 9 AM-3 PM at Princeton University. The workshop is free and includes lunch. Registration deadline is June 4. To register, call (703) 682-9320 ext. 236 or email . Once you register, you will be given the details regarding the exact location of the event at Princeton.

Finally, I am thrilled to report some good news--an actual victory for the Halper family, who lost their family farm of 80 plus years to eminent domain abuse by Piscataway Township. A state appeals court has upheld a $17.9 million jury verdict awarded to the Halper family in the battle over the condemnation of their 75-acre farm on South Washington Avenue in the township. Piscataway had contended that the price of the farm should be based on a December 1999 appraisal of $4.3 million. The court rejected that claim, stating that market forces, not government action, caused an increase in land values between 1999 and 2004.

In a Home News Tribune article, Mark Halper rightly describes the ruling as a victory for the family. "I feel we've been vindicated,'' he said. "The township was trying to steal our land and they didn't get away with it.''

Whether or not Piscataway will appeal the ruling is unclear. What is definite is that so far, $10 million in Middlesex County taxpayers' money has been spent assisting Piscataway in its despicable attempt to seize the Halpers' property.

Mark Halper says he is still willing to negotiate to undo the condemnation and get back his family home.

But the larger point here is that after nearly a decade of battling corruption and injustice, the Halpers--and by extension all who are fighting eminent domain abuse in New Jersey and this country--have won a long, hard fought victory after a seemingly endless series of setbacks. That itself is encouraging, and it reinforces the conviction that in the long term, justice will prevail.