An outrageous eminent domain case

Taking an old veteran's house to give to another private party:

Johnnie Stevens Fights for His Home

A July 17, 2005, article in the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that 761st veteran Johnnie Stevens is involved in a controversy relating to planned condemnation of the home where he and his wife have lived for nearly a decade so that the land can be used for a luxury townhouse development. "Given less than two years to live because of lung cancer, Stevens hoped that he would not be pushed out by the borough's ambitious efforts to redevelop the run-down neighborhood." The controversy has recently become part of the political landscape in New Jersey, as politicians are using the situation to debate the legal doctrine of eminent domain that allows governments to take land by condemnation for use in development projects. In 1999 the area was designated a redevelopment zone and about two years ago a developer was chosen from several applicants and signed an agreement to build 400 luxury townhouses and condominiums, luxury apartments and retail and commercial space lining a widened avenue bordered by shade trees. The land owned by Stevens has been earmarked for use as an entrance to the new townhouse community. In the fall of 2004, Stevens received a letter from the developer offering to buy his property. "He turned it down, hired an attorney and is gearing up to fight the city's effort to take his property through eminent domain. 'This eminent domain is one of the most intimidating things you know of,' said Stevens, who breathes with the help of an oxygen machine." The 84-year-old Stevens is a World War II veteran awarded the Bronze Star as a member of the 761st Tank Battalion. "After what I've given to this country. I think I've earned my little piece of land. I just want to have my little garden and sit in my own back yard," Stevens said.


Blogger E. David Quammen said...

That the government has turned so heartless as this is indeed despicable! Especially to a gentleman of Johnnies generation. Almost every one of the people I've met from the WWII generation are hardy, decent, hard-working and respectable people.
The success our country had in industry during the 1950's through early 1970's is due to people from his generation. These are the guys who faced the Nazi's and facism and stumped the 'hell' out of them. That ANY of them can be treated this way is a SHAME on our nation!
The vile, perverse way that our government has turned is sickening.

11/17/2005 10:51 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

I saw this veteran interviewed on TV, and he definitely fits your discussion of a very honorable, decent man.

11/19/2005 1:49 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

You can't say that "the government has turned so heartless." It is not the government, it is corrupt people within the government.

You can't say "SHAME on our nation." It is not the nation, it is those few people in black robes who decided that the words "For public use" don't actually belong in our constitution.

Most people in this nation will disagree that this is a travesty. Don't blame the country. Blame those foul democrats in the Supreme Court that allowed this to happen.

11/25/2005 5:00 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear Peter:

Can't you still feel shame that your country made a particular decision even though you were not responsible for that decision? This seems separate from your point, which is correct, that most of those who backed this decision are most likely to be Democrats.

11/26/2005 2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the highlight on my great-uncle who is the monarch of my family and who I pray can live the rest of his days without thinking about housing... And as a federal employee, you civilians are so naive. Party this, party that and the name calling are not reflective of the hand-washing, hook-ups, back stabbing that really go down in government offices. Everyone goes to lunch together and sleeps together. Get a grip! -- The Niece.

1/04/2006 12:21 AM  

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