CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y.—The family owners of a chain of Long Island hardware stores are asking a federal judge to immediately halt the town of Southold’s attempt to take their property through eminent domain. On May 4, the Brinkmann family filed a federal lawsuit seeking to protect their right to use the Southold property they own to open a new hardware store. Just one day after the Brinkmanns announced their suit, Southold quietly filed a lawsuit in state court to condemn the property. It was only weeks later that attorneys with the Institute for Justice (IJ) were informed about the filing and also discovered that the Brinkmanns had only days to prepare for a hearing that could result in the forced sale of their property.
IJ is asking U.S. District Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall to issue an order halting the state condemnation proceeding as the Brinkmanns’ federal lawsuit is considered. Without an order halting the eminent domain action, the Brinkmanns stand to lose their property before the federal court has an opportunity to consider whether Southold is violating the U.S. Constitution.
“When you follow the law, you should get to use your property to make an honest living,” said IJ Attorney Jeffrey Redfern. “The Brinkmanns should not lose their property before the court even has an opportunity to hear their constitutional claim. We hope that the court will recognize the damage that could be done if the property is condemned and stop the process while it considers the Brinkmanns’ lawsuit.”
After the Brinkmanns announced their lawsuit, Southold officials repeatedly declined to comment to the media. What officials were not telling reporters, or the residents of Southold, is that the town was moving forward with eminent domain. By withholding this information, the town almost certainly hoped to gain an advantage over the Brinkmann family and prevent a public outcry over the controversial maneuver.
“It’s outrageous that Southold quietly moved forward with eminent domain after we sued to protect our constitutional rights,” said Ben Brinkmann. “This shows that they know taking our property for a bogus park doesn’t have the full support of the community. Fortunately, we found out in time to try to stop their underhanded move.”
“The town’s claim that it needs to put a park on the Brinkmanns’ property is a sham. They just want to stop the Brinkmanns from opening their new store,” said IJ Managing Attorney Arif Panju. “If you follow the law, you should be allowed to open your business on the property that you own.”