Neighbors Fight Back Against County’s Land Grab

For generations, Burnet Road has been the center of a tight-knit community and home to dozens of families. Britta and Danny Serog are siblings who grew up in the home their father—a Holocaust survivor—built in 1963. Though they moved away, each still cherishes and regularly visits the property. Paul and Robin Richer are a married couple who both, like Britta and Danny, grew up on Burnet Road in the 1960s and 70s, and they still live there today. They raised their two daughters in another home on Burnet Road, but, when Paul’s dad passed away, they moved into the house he’d built in 1954. In Paul’s words, they “moved back home.” Britta, Danny, Robin, and Paul love Burnet Road and the community there, and none wants to leave.

Unfortunately, Onondaga County wants to push the Serogs, Richers, and other families out. The County’s development agency (OCIDA) plans to use eminent domain to take the Serogs’ and Richers’ homes, bulldoze them, and add the vacant land to 1,200 acres of already-vacant land the County already owns in the hopes of attracting a huge corporation to build a microchip plant there.

Eminent domain has traditionally been understood as the power of government to take private property for a public use, like a courthouse or public school. But New York permits bureaucracies, like OCIDA, to use eminent domain to take property for purely private development, like expanding a vacant “commerce” park. New York courts encourages this abusive practice notwithstanding a nationwide backlash against takings for purely private development. And New York’s bureaucrats have no hesitation about using eminent domain to take private property for speculative private development or bullying New Yorkers off their property by threatening to use eminent domain.

The Institute for Justice is helping Britta, Danny, Paul and Robin to defend homes that are rightfully theirs. Your home is supposed to be your castle. But in New York, your home is your castle only until a government bureaucrat thinks of putting something there that might pay more taxes. That is not only wrong, it is unconstitutional.

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