Eminent Domain

A Look Inside New Jersey Town's Land Grab for Private Developers

Mount Holly Gardens tries to get poor minorities out of their homes in the name of redevelopment.

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Santos Cruz still remembers the first time he heard the demolition crews. "They came without any warning at 6 a.m. outside my home," he said in a recent interview with The Huffington Post. "The ground started shaking and there was a tremendous amount of noise. They knocked down all the houses they owned: It was like being in a war zone for a whole month." Cruz, 49, has lived in Mount Holly Gardens, N.J., for 23 years. Now, the local government wants him out.

The clash between the township of Mount Holly and the working-class, mostly minority residents of this neighborhood of rowhouses has dragged on for 10 years. The township wants to give the land to a private developer. The residents want to remain in the homes they've owned for decades. And the prospect of an ending to the dispute has just gone a little further out of sight. In June, the township filed a Supreme Court petition to request a hearing on the decade-long redevelopment case. At stake are not only the legal implications of the Fair Housing Act, but also the fate of a township strapped for cash, residents uncertain about where they'll live and a neighborhood that has literally been torn apart by the local government.

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