Eminent Domain



Reader Justin Slotman passes along yet another story about eminent domain getting out of control, this time in a South Jersey township near Philadelphia. If officials get their way, the Pennsauken Mart, home to 150 small businesses run mostly by recent immigrants, will be demolished to make room for a $65 million sports and conference center.

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  1. Is "eminent domain" becoming an interesting euphemism for municipal corruption?

  2. This is an endlessly interesting and disgusting story: local pols with little supervision + eminent domain + rich real estate developers and assorted corporate welfare queens + hapless citzens whos homes and businesses are in the way of the latest mall or stadium boondoggle. . .

  3. The government has always found a way to take whatever it wants, just ask the Native Americans. What is even more laughable is the "fair market value" they pay the poor people that lose their roots, their livelihood, and the sense of accomplishment they achieved. I agree with Dude, these projects are always some pork-filled boondoggle, which stretches the original concept of eminent domain to the ludicrous...What is the point of doing anything worthwhile if the government can come take it away and put up a white elephant that will be blighted in a decade?

  4. And yet, as a recent immigrant to PA, I find it completely paradoxical (if that's a word) that they will never use eminent domain to get land to widen/build a road, which means the only way to get to anywhere is a two lane buggy trail rather than a modern highway. "Pennsylvania - Philadelphia and Pittsburg seperated by Alabama."

  5. Oh, they're Jersey. Never mind, they've got it worse than I do, poor bastards.

  6. Cynic: eminent domain is just one of those tools that have a legitimate use that are easily corrupted by the unscrupulous. It's like seizing the assests of criminals - it seems like a good idea to make criminals litterally pay for the cost of catching them, but it really just gives unscrupulous police departments a way to pad their budgets whenever they want.

  7. This is not an eminent domain issue for the mart's small business owners ("tenants"). Even if there were no such thing as eminent domain, only Elliot Kattan, the mart's owner would have the legal standing to challenge this project.

  8. Not that I'm usually inclined to make the "property is theft" argument, but doesn't Pennsauken Mart owner Eliot Kattan owe his very "ownership" of the property to the mother of all eminent domain takings? Trace the chain of title back far enough and you'll arrive at European colonists ethnically cleansing the area of native Americans and taking--yes--eminent domain over the land and making it possible for the land to be sold to a series of New Jerseyans ever since.

    I'll grant that it's convenient to make the buck stop with that violent seizure of the land by government in cooperation with commercial interests. It's what makes it possible to function today: otherwise we'd be lost. But if we're going to get properly riled up by the contemporary push to seize the property by government on behalf of commercial interests, can we have a moment of silence for the flea market's tenants who are being kicked out just as surely as the Indians were 350 or so years ago?

    And this Kattan fellow: is he related to SNL's Chris Kattan?

    And what is former Jersey City mayor and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bret Schundler--who never met a state-subsidized skyscraper project he didn't like--doing inserting himself as a populist on this issue? Day is night! Dogs and cats are bedding down together! Help!

  9. Anon.: Not having standing to challenge a project in court is not equivalent to not having issues with the project.

    S.M.: Past injustices do not erase present ones.

  10. Jaws, this is America and issues don't matter: if I have an issue with the color of your house, you have an issue because your girlfriend dumped you, someone else has issues with something we say that offends them -- it doesn't matter. Business owners lives are sadly disrupted, and it makes a very nice newspaper article, but the only oxen that could get gored here belong to Mr. Kattan and the owners of the Club Can-Can and Expo Center.

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