Scorched Earth: Eminent Domain Abuse in the Gardens of Mount Holly
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Scorched Earth: Eminent Domain Abuse in the Gardens of Mount Holly


-An entire community has been torn from its
roots for a wealthy developer’s private profit. Lives have been destroyed for a project that
may ultimately fail. -This is what happens when eminent domain is
abused for private gain. The Gardens was home to more than a thousand
residents in the southern New Jersey township of Mount Holly. Since it was built in the 1950’s
it has attracted hard-working first-time homeowners. -I’ve lived here when my
son was in 3rd grade, and now he’s a grandfather so approximately 36 years ago. -My parents came from Puerto Rico,
I grew up in New York but I chose Mount Holly to be my home, and I’ve been here for 24 years.
-It was affordable so I moved here, I rented for 1 year and
have owned my home for 19 years -It was a close and vibrant community where
neighbors took care of one another and watched over each other’s children. -We use to play football out in the front, in the street, and all the kids would come out. Everybody’s kids would be there and they knew
they were with Mr. Cruz so they didn’t mind.
-My kids used to leave their bikes outside, not tied down or nothing, no chains. I used to sleep with my door open. Everybody
knew just come in to Ms. Nancy’s house
-We had talent shows with our kids. We had just about everything you could think of that made it nice for the children. But the township had other plans for the gardens. 10 years ago officials decided to clear out
the three hundred garden style row homes so Keating, a Philadelphia developer, could build luxury
apartments and townhouses. -They mentioned in the newspaper that the town was going to use eminent domain to take the homes, and then when we went to the township meetings, they denied that they ever said it. But fortunately one of the ladies
had the copy of it and then they said we’re not discussing
that now. -If this was a school or maybe a road, I can understand-okay, well
I can’t live in the middle of the road, but they’re building homes here. So why can’t we be part of this new neighborhood
that they’re gonna redevelop? -The township began dismantling the neighborhood, buying up homes using the threat of eminent
domain and either boring them up or tearing them down, even while connected to occupied homes. Santos witnessed the township’s reckless demolitions
first-hand. -When they started demolishing homes they never took into account, made no plans,
that there was adjacent homes there. They just went in with the bulldozer
destroying properties, hitting them, and then not taking responsibility. They hit my home, they damaged my property
and then claimed not to have done it. Gardens residents have been living in an urban
renewal war zone. -I’m afraid to even stay here by myself when
my kids go out, and they’re grown-they can’t be with me 24/7.
-3 days before Christmas the remaining homeowners were told they had to accept the
township’s final offers for their homes or have them taken away.
-When I saw the envelope, I didn’t want to open it because I knew what it was. It was something bad. It was from the Mally
Group, and my heart just sank. And I had just bought the Christmas tree, and
it was standing there, so when I came home from work we could decorate it. And my whole world just shattered, and, you know,
I started crying and my kids said, “Don’t worry mom, everything’s gonna
be OK. You know, we’re going to decorate it, and we’re not gonna let them ruin our Christmas. -The mayor claims he’s destroying the Gardens for the betterment of the community. But now it looks like this project may result
in the loss of a million dollars a year. That’s ten percent of the township’s budget.
-The whole township is gonna suffer for these uncontrolled ideas of grandeur.
-They did not consult with us or talk with us. If they came and said, “well we want to
do this” and so and sat down and talk together we could have
worked out something without all this hassle. -All the remaining homeowners want is to stay in their community. -When I bought the house I thought I’d be here the rest of my days. -My children are here, my roots are here, my grandkids live around
the neighborhood. I don’t want to go nowhere. I want to stay in Mount Holly. -But the township refuses to offer them replacement
housing in the new development and is offering them less than half of how
much would cost to buy a smaller version of their homes just a few blocks away. -Why, if they’re doubling the amount of units that they’re
gonna make here that were pre-existing, why can’t we get a home there? Why can’t they make room for us and keep our community together? The Gardens homeowners have worked hard their
entire lives to earn their homes. -I’ve had 2 jobs. Sometimes I’ve had one
job and school at one time, and my children also, and they’re home owners, and they got that from me.
We’re working people who know the value of what’s important, home, good family, good values, they’ve learned that from me. -This abuse is emblematic of New Jersey’s eminent
domain law, which is in desperate need of reform. The Institute
for Justice has worked with homeowners to raise awareness about this land grab, but the township isn’t listening. -When the government succumbs to this, we got nowhere to go but down. -The Gardens homeowners need your help. Please visit ij.org/mountholly
to learn what you can do.
-I know that I’m fighting for other people that might go through this and then they might have a better chance of saving their
home

32 Comments

  • TheEastBranch

    In 1998, I delivered newspapers to residents here; the nicest people in the WHOLE TOWN! Abuse of eminent domain must cease.

  • TheSharperWon

    I woke up to this very real nightmare a while ago. Conditions have worsened because of a bunch of liberals making money OFF THE backs of poor people who they say they are HELPING. Wake up people, liberalism has anesthisized too many folks in thinking they have no hope, accept for the liberal rescuing a victim while he gets paid through his NON PROFIT organization!!! Hope they can work out plans to include those few who remain instead of having a bunch liberal lipped complainers kill program

  • Boetica1960

    You see, it doesn't stop with using the government to steal the fruits of someone else's labor so it can be redistributed to YOU! At some point they come for YOU!

  • Wade Collin

    What this report is not telling you is the rampant drug selling and gun violence that has plagued "The Gardens" for years. I feel for my neighbors across the bypass. The unfortunate thing is that 90% of the residents didn't care as much as these three individuals. The first time I drove through, taking a wrong turn, I was warned not to drive through there at night. With little exception, there was NO pride in this neighborhood.

  • VideoCar

    I feel for these people. Anyone know if IJ has been able to stop the actions of Mayor Gibson. He should get this solved and help these people get an equivalent home and not use tax payers money to evict them.

  • Andreas748

    The sad part is the stupid local politicians who came up with this eminent domain idea are long gone. Most likely retired with generous pensions paid by tax payers. After millions of dollars in legal costs, this issue is still far from resolved..
    .

  • my3stooges

    The lack of respect for others today is astounding! Like the old lady in the video said, the township did not even involved the community in this plan. It makes me angry how arrogant the government officials are. They show no fear of God in them. This is what happens when socialism takes over and Christianity starts dying in America.

  • my3stooges

    That is not point. You are way off the topic. It is about respect for these homeowners but the government treated them like children or idiots. You are one of the enablers of these so-called elite government officials to treat us like this as you continue to vote for them.

  • notanxiousanxiety

    Good riddens… Holbein will be a much better school with these projects out of the picture… (Product of Mt. Holly)

  • lisa hayden

    I agree with you 100% this is so wrong to take someone property. you would have to be a cold hearted fool not to see that this is wrong

  • marcus roach

    My Business was taken In 2011 by the State ,I was forced out of business ,,the Offer that was made was Nothing close to what I needed to relocate my business ,It is Sad that this happen's All over the USA ,,

  • Dawn O'Hanlon

    Ok yes the way they went about this was all wrong and the video happened to find 3 hard working people that lived in the gardens. I don't know anyone in the mt. Holly area that ever left there doors unlocked at night. I use to cut thru Levis drive to get to the 541 bypass and get on to Marne highway after I hit up commerce (well now td) bank. I was pulled over on more than 3 occasions being told by mt.holly police that I should not be driving in the neighborhood because there have been car jackings, gun violence, heavy drug trafficking and theft and this was in the late 90s. Everyone in mt.holly called the gardens "mini camden" and you're lying if you are saying you never heard of it. They did go about it the wrong way, I feel horrible for the handful of people that were hard workers and had there homes taken away from them. That never should of happened and I'm sorry they had to lose there house due to the rest of the neighborhood being a project. Yes it was a project and I love how no one even mentions that about the gardens. I'd like to see the crime report for the past 25 years on the gardens. You delivered papers there in '98?? You were not in the gardens. Sorry, I was born and raised in mt. Holly and those 3 people in the video are the only positive things that came out of that area.

  • Myrddin Wyllt

    It's ruthless. Unfortunately government is not only stealing people's homes but stealing people's children and pets. That happens in New York City. There are the abusive Administration for children services and Animal Care and Control that kills 2000 pets each month. Family court takes children away from families in many cases where there is no need for that. And ACC has employees who steal pets that have been unlawfully seized and then they give them to their friends and family members

  • bristol marie

    Mt Holly Gardens was Drug and Gang infested. Theyre may have been some good people in there. Not many. You cannot leave your doors and windows unlocked in this town. Random gunshots are heard Homeless drug addicts roam the streets at night. Its not safe to be in a parking lot here st night. People get robbed in broad day light. Mt Holly should be DEMOLISHED its as bad as Camden

  • David Blackburne

    Unconstitutional! Pure and absolute governmental abuse of our constitutional rights! Only another 'Revolution' will stop this!

  • Scott Lemiere

    This is where the base is at today.

    http://www2.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/mount-holly-gardens-housing-dispute-lawsuit-20180702.html

    It's already over and the township is back in court because after agreeing to pay a fair amount or replace the houses with one of the new ones, they tried to fuck the people over again.

    They have about two months to get most of them into the new houses before the city has to pay out $150,000 to each one of them.

  • EccentricSage

    The developers and politicians should be strung up and used as target practice. This is disguesting. Where is the representation for the comunity?

  • hank fontaine

    The Devil blowing up the poor ,driving them off there own lands people selling souls mind control & sgt peppers lonely heart club bands control through chaos Ayan Rand

  • Wayne Lankenau

    YOU OWN THE PROPERTY THE TOWNSHIP MUST DIE FOR FUCKING OVER PEOPLE WHO OWNED AND HAD PAID FOR THE PROPERTY cut their fucking throats CAPITALIST FUCKING TRAITORS

  • Bill Smith

    They think it is a joke to throw people into the street – who can least defend themselves against corrupt officials . You need to recruit the terminally ill to do the dirty work that no one else has the guts for . Each dirtbag involved must lose their house . See if THAT gets their attention . You are dealing with scum . They must be taught a lesson . We are NOT going to stand for this .

  • Eugene Herrell jr

    Well we live in our RV and this is why we don't buy property but all you people want to put us down. This is messed up points blank our government is crooked and against the American people.

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