Arlington, Va.—Nearly one month ago, Charlie Birnbaum—the piano tuner who is trying to save his long-time family home in Atlantic City—delivered more than 100,000 signatures to Gov. Chris Christie’s office from people across the globe demanding that the New Jersey state government leave Charlie and his home alone. Tomorrow, Gov. Christie will deliver his State of the State Address. Charlie is asking the governor to address his petition and spare his home from eminent domain abuse at the hands of the State of New Jersey.
The petitions were loaded to a USB flash drive and sent to the governor’s office for delivery via Federal Express on Wednesday, December 17, 2014. So far Gov. Christie has ignored Charlie’s petition.
More than 100,000 Change.org members signed an online petition, in which Charlie wrote:
My parents—both immigrants and survivors of the Holocaust—left me many things: a love of this country, a deep passion for music and a home right near the boardwalk in Atlantic City. That home—my parents’ foothold in their adopted country—has been a source of love, tragedy and renewal to my family for the past 50 years.
Unfortunately, a New Jersey state agency, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA), is trying to change all that. CRDA is trying to use eminent domain to seize my property as part of a “mixed-use development” project to complement the Revel Casino, which recently closed its doors after filing for bankruptcy.
CRDA is just trying to take my home because it thinks it can. Eminent domain has traditionally been understood as the power of government to take private property for a public use, like a road or a public school. But some state agencies, like New Jersey’s CRDA, abuse eminent domain to take property for purely private development, like shopping centers and high-end boutiques.
I joined with the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, to fight back and stop CRDA’s unconstitutional attempt to seize my home using eminent domain.
Bob McNamara, the Institute for Justice lead attorney in Charlie’s case, said, “Nearly 7,000 petition signers came from New Jersey—more than from any other location.”
Charlie noted, “People from across the globe signed my petition, including signers from as far away as Chile, Greece, Russia, South Africa and India, who have been touched by my plight and recognize the injustice of what is transpiring here in our nation. I wish the New Jersey state government would open its eyes to this injustice. Something like this should never happen anywhere, but especially not here in America.”