Forfeiture, Eminent Domain, And Blight Threaten Private Property Rights On Long Island

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Government officials in conjunction with private corporations are stealing land throughout the country and on Long Island at breakneck speed using devious tactics and blatant abuses of power.

This morning I attended a conference on private property rights held by The Institute for Justice. What was shared at the meeting was stunning. Numerous Long Islanders are losing their land and their private property rights to the government and corporate land barons who are funded by Saudi Arabia.

This is going on throughout the country and if you are not from Long Island, read about our plight and be forewarned. You won’t be spared in the end.

The Town of Brookhaven in Long Island, New York, has become a center of Eminent Domain abuses and rental inspection programs that violate peoples’ right to privacy. The 4th and 5th Amendments to our Constitution are all but eradicated.

Only the American people can bring these freedoms back. Corporations and government won’t. The job of government is to grow and become more powerful and more controlling. We are the only ones who can stop it.

Civil forfeiture laws, condemnations for blight, and Eminent Domain are abused by government officials in a way that is destroying our rights to land ownership in New York.

Long Island government officials are abusing an obscure civil forfeiture law. Civil forfeiture is a serious threat to liberty. N.Y. forfeiture laws allow the police to seize homes, cars, and other personal items for their own use. The police don’t have to charge the person or persons with a crime.

Then there is the misuse of blight when employing Eminent Domain.

Using “blight” as an excuse, one elderly veteran was fined for having a lawn chair in his front yard because it was out of season. What they didn’t care to know is that he needed the chair to take a break when walking to and from the mailbox.

To explain what is going on in Long Island, we need to go back to New London, Connecticut in 2005.

In a landmark Supreme Court case, Eminent Domain was employed in the case of Suzette Kelo in one of the more disheartening and damaging cases in U.S. history.

The Supreme Court of the United States in the Kelo vs. the City of New London decision made the determination that private property could be seized and turned over to private developers for the ‘betterment of the community.’

They left the average American open to abuse by robber barons and corrupt officials. It is happening primarily in the more liberal states, especially New York.

Allowing the government to take private property, under the guise of Eminent Domain, for the purpose of turning it over to private developers, who are favored by a particular political group, is a form of corruption. Our government is doing exactly that thanks to this decision.

As a result of the Kelo case, 44 states passed laws prohibiting a repeat of such an event in their states.

Suzette Kelo was a Connecticut homeowner and retired nurse living in a working class neighborhood who owned her dream retirement home on the waterfront.

The government decided the property would be better used as a Pfizer plant with onsite homes for employees.

She fought and was represented by The Institute for Justice. They won in trial court, lost in the Connecticut Supreme Court and finally lost in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Her land was stolen by the government though they eventually agreed to move her pretty little pink house to another piece of land not on the waterfront.

The Kelo property was never developed and now stands as a monument to feckless government intervention, power and abuse – it’s a vacant lot.

A men’s social club that hosted influential members of the community was situated in close proximity to the Kelo home but they lobbied with a well-funded campaign and the club was allowed to stay.

The most vulnerable and least politically connected are the ones who are hurt the most in these cases.

More than 10,000 homes have been seized since the Kelo decision.

Justice O’Connor dissented in the case, saying that there is nothing to stop any home from being seized.

The decision was opposed by 80% to 90% of our fellow citizens but it didn’t matter to the government.

Studies have shown that Eminent Domain is not needed for private development, but the government will tell you it is as the government officials work their mutually beneficial deals with private development corporations.

The corrupt government officials will first say that a home or homes are blighted even if it isn’t. They condemn them. Then they seize the “blighted” land and turn it over to private developers.

Blight should refer to property that is so unseemly it’s dangerous or harmful to the public good but the definition now means whatever the government says it means.

Long Island, particularly Brookhaven, according to The Institute for justice, has gotten their attention because of the ongoing and outrageous abuses of Eminent Domain.

Brookhaven is declaring homes blighted even when they’re not so they can use the land for private gain.

Why is property so important? Why should we fight?

The 5th amendment states: No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public case, without just compensation.

It’s our unalienable right.

There has to be a good and valid reason for the government to take private property. It cannot be taken for public use without just compensation, even with Eminent Domain.

In the case of Goldstein v. N.Y. Government Citation, Goldstein lost his condominium in a perfectly fine Brooklyn building after it was labeled “blighted.”

Daniel Goldstein fought it up to the N.Y. Court of Appeals and lost.

The judge found that “Where land is found to be substandard it’s taken for urban renewal is for a public purpose.”

Watch:

Once land is targeted, homeowners have only 30 days to appeal and then lose the right to ever appeal again, sometimes it is before they have found out it’s being taken.

The Town of Brookhaven has a new law that allows the town to make the determination that a property is blighted.

Forfeiture laws are particularly damaging to private property rights.

Civil forfeiture is a proceeding by government that can find property guilty of a crime. That’s right – the property is guilty.

You will find cases with names such as public use v. solid gold object in the shape of a goose.

The law derives from the superstitious people of  medieval times when properties were deemed guilty. It was excised from the law except for ships.

It made sense in that there were cases of ships being used for crimes like smuggling but the owner would be miles away. The law was used to seize the ships.

The law was picked up in the 1980s as a tool in the war on drugs.

There are fewer procedural protections under this law. There is no right to notice, no right to a hearing until after the property has been held for a long time. The person who owns the property must prove their own innocence.

This isn’t right. The laws should be the same for all.

Chris and Mark Sourbouelis of Philadelphia had their home seized by the government after their son sold $40 worth of drugs from their home. The Institute for Justice is representing the family.

The money from forfeitures goes into a special forfeiture fund to be used to seize more money and property. It’s a self-fulfilling fund. It seizes to replenish itself so it can seize some more.

In some cases federal funds are involved, creating a financially lucrative relationship between the feds and local governments.

Russ Caswell owned the Russ Caswell Motel, a family business and a perfectly fine motel. Some people who frequented the motel did things that weren’t legal. He did what he could to assist police. He even gave rooms to the police for free so they could investigate the criminals in ajoining rooms.

That wasn’t good enough for the police. The police took the entire motel because some guests were criminals. The police were assisted by the feds and they all shared in the loot.

It’s called equitable sharing. Forfeiture is initiated under federal law and the feds then share the proceeds with local authorities.

Jeff Hirsch who owned a cash business – a convenience store – had his entire bank account containing over $400,000 seized and after two years, hasn’t even had a hearing.

It seems that under the law, if you deposit more than $10,000 cash in the bank, the money can be seized. If less than $10,000, it’s a crime.

Mr. Hirsch, who handled a lot of cash, was forced to continually close his accounts and open new ones because the banks didn’t want to deal with him. His accountant told him to open accounts for under $10,000 so he wouldn’t be forced to constantly open new accounts. It was then that the government seized his money.

Another abuse by government concerns rental properties.

The government can enter peoples’ property to inspect for code violations any time it wants though there is a tenant living in the home and there is no reason to suspect a crime was committed.

The 4th Amendment states that people have the right to be secure in their own homes. It demands that the government must have a warrant or  probable cause to enter.

The Supreme Court threw the 4th Amendment out the window for renters in the 1967 Camara Supreme Court case. The government doesn’t need warrants and they don’t need probable cause.

Ironically, if someone is a criminal, the government needs a warrant but if the subject is just a renter, the renter loses those rights and has fewer rights than an owner or a criminal.

Some will say it’s to crack down on slumlords but there are rental inspection programs that don’t violate the 4th amendment.

The law should be the same for rental inspections and landlords as it is for everyone else under the 4th Amendment.

The Institute for Justice is traveling the country, helping people organize, monitor local, county, and state governments, and exert pressure on local governments to stop the abuses.

New York is the worst abuser of Eminent Domain in the country and officials refuse to reform.

We need laws to stop this and for that to happen, people need to step up to the plate.

There should be strict procedures for police to engage in forfeiture. Right now they team up with feds to get more money because federal law is more lucrative than state law.

The Institute for Justice can provide guidance but they can’t lobby. The lobbying is up to the citizens.

One attendee brought up the abuse of Transfer Development Rights (TDR) being used on Long Island. In the case of TDRs, valuable land is taken via Eminent Domain and exchanged for less valuable land near rail stations for example. The good land is kept by the government for open spaces.

Private property is ending up in the hands of fewer and more powerful people. This needs to be stopped.

Land is being stolen throughout Long Island and New York.

The Ronkonkoma Hub is being built at the expense of numerous businesses who are getting pennies on the dollar or nothing for their property.

Tri-Tec real estate is the master developer of the Ronkonkoma Hub. Private land is endangered since the developer plans to build this 50-acre monstrosity of 5-story buildings on private land.

According to the company’s website, it will be “a walkable, transit-oriented development with as many as 1,450 residences surrounded by office space, retail shops, restaurants and entertainment venues”. One thing is certain, the developers will be the beneficiaries of corporate welfare. and 10 years of no taxation, subsidized by taxpayers.

It’s being done to cure blight supposedly.

The median household income for Ronkonkoma is $88,664 and only 4.7% of individuals were estimated to be living below the poverty line which begs the question, why is it being called “blighted” and why does it need this citification in the middle of suburbia.

The Ronkonkoma Hub project itself is being financed by the Saudi-based Olayan Group, a Saudi Arabian investment conglomerate that owns Middle East franchise and distribution rights for companies such as Coca-Cola, Burger King and Colgate Palmolive. Olayan also has substantial stakes in JPMorgan Chase and National Grid, according to its website.

The Olayan Group family is reported to be the 3rd richest in Saudi Arabia.

We are letting Saudi Arabia buy up land and corporations in our country.

Suburbia on Long Island will soon give way to small cities without cars, fewer trees, and all the problems of the city such as poverty and drugs. It’s what the social engineers have decided is best for us. They see overpopulation and global climactic catastrophes in our futures and they want to be prepared.

These developments are going up all over Long Island including the towns of Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip, Riverhead, Smithtown, Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay. In Brooklyn, there are 200,000 units planned.

We are watching a fundamental transformation in which private land owners are becoming the wealthy corporate few and the average citizen is left without private land ownership.

If you live on Long Island and are interested in forming a group to fight this abuse of power, please contact Christina Walsh, Director of Activism and Coalitions, at cwalsh@ij.org or Mary Calamia at LongIslandMatters@gmail.com.

A group called Long Island Property Rights formed today which you might be interested in joining. At least get on the mailing list. Be informed and fight for your freedoms. Today it is the North Fork Express in Ronkonkoma that is being told they must turn over their land, tomorrow it will be you. No one’s property is safe right now.

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According to their website, the Institute for Justice was “founded in 1991. It is “what a civil liberties law firm should be. As the national law firm for liberty, we stick to a clear mission engaging in cutting-edge litigation and advocacy both in the courts of law and in the court of public opinion on behalf of individuals whose most basic rights are denied by the government. Our four pillars of litigation are private property, economic liberty, free speech and school choice. Simply put, we seek a rule of law under which individuals can control their destinies as free and responsible members of society.”

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