In 2016, officials in Emerson, Nj., began targeting property owners in the borough’s Central Business District, planning to use eminent domain to hand the land over to a private developer, JMF Properties, who was already building nearby.

Establishing a “Condemnation Redevelopment Area,” the borough claimed that it was attempting to meet its affordable housing obligations and contain development in the downtown area. But the developer’s agreement specifically stated that it would explore alternative sites to accommodate affordable housing.

In order to stand up for the property rights of business owners in the Central Business District, IJ’s activism team hosted a training in February 2017 for 40 people in the affected area, preparing them to fight officials’ unjust redevelopment schemes. At the meeting, the property owners formed Stop Emerson Eminent Domain (SEED), eventually creating an active social media presence used to share information and express opposition to the borough’s plans, as well as hosting more community meetings and public demonstrations.

When the public responded with overwhelming support for the property owners, Emerson officials began removing certain properties from further study for potential condemnation, hoping to pacify the individual property owners most vocal against the project.

In March 2017, some of the property owners who remain under consideration for eminent domain filed a lawsuit against the borough to put an end to officials’ attempted Central Business District land grab. IJ supports these activists in their essential fight to keep what they’ve worked so hard to own.