On Monday, September 1, 2014, Atlantic City’s Revel Casino Hotel will close its doors, marking the end of a two-year multi-billion-dollar experiment in government-backed casino development. Despite the closure, however, the New Jersey state agency—the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA)—continues to press forward with a cruel, ill-advised and totally unnecessary plan employing eminent domain in a scheme hatched back when the Revel first opened. Even though it clearly never needed his land, and certainly doesn’t need it now that the Revel is closing, CRDA refuses to abandon its plan to take and bulldoze the longtime family home of Charlie Birnbaum, an Atlantic City piano-tuner.
Two years ago, CRDA authorized itself to condemn a chunk of property in Atlantic City in the hopes of encouraging development that would “complement the new Revel Casino and assist with the demands created by the resort.” Now, even with no Revel to complement and no demands being created, CRDA continues to press forward with its condemnation claims. It continues to do this even though it has no particular use in mind for Charlie’s property.
“When the facts change, most people change their behavior, but not CRDA,” explained Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Robert McNamara, who is part of the legal team defending Charlie’s home. “It seems like the state only has one response, no matter what is happening. When they expected the Revel to succeed, they wanted to bulldoze the Birnbaums’ family home. Now that the Revel has failed, they want to bulldoze the Birnbaums’ family home.”
“CRDA had no plan for this property two years ago, and they have no plan now,” concluded IJ Attorney Dan Alban. “CRDA is taking Charlie’s property merely because they think they can. CRDA should demonstrate some common sense and common decency and announce that it will once and for all just leave Charlie alone. That’s all he is asking for: to be left alone to enjoy what is rightfully his.”
The condemnation case, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority v. Birnbaum et al., is ongoing in Superior Court in Atlantic City.