Halpers vacate family farm - departure averts eviction by Piscataway police

 

 

(Note: Way down in the article is this tidbit of truth: "The family was to be awarded $4.3 million, representing the 1999 assessed value of the farm, but that money has been frozen." So, the steamroller, using the specter of 'eminent domain,' creates another homeless and penniless family.)

 

 

July 22, 2006

 

 

By David Stegon, Gannett New Jersey [email protected] or 732-565-7251

Courier-News

1201 Route 22 West

Bridgewater, New Jersey 08807-0600

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Piscataway, New Jersey - The Halper family left their home late Thursday night and checked into a South Plainfield Hampton Inn just hours before the township police descended on the family's farmhouse to evict them.

At least five police cars arrived at the farm near the intersection of Metlars Lane and Washington Avenue about 5 a.m. but found the home in which the family has lived for more than 20 years abandoned.

Clara and Larry Halper, on advice from their lawyer, decided to leave the home, which was seized by the township through eminent domain, to avoid being charged a $4,000 fine for each day they remained on the property.

The fine, which is retroactive to Monday, was imposed Thursday by Superior Court Judge James P. Hurley.

"This is America, and we are being treated like enemies for wanting to keep our home," Clara Halper said Friday morning as she stood across the road from her former home. "Where is the justice? The township is just a bunch of cowards."

Across the road, a police officer sat in a patrol car blocking the driveway next to a pile of trash. Workers from the township's public works department were moving in and out of the home, which had been boarded up, loading the last of the Halpers' items into a yellow truck.

Clara Halper stood on the side of the road with her 8-year-old daughter, Cassie, next to their dark blue Volvo 470, which was filled with personal belongings. Several drivers on Metlars Lane honked and waved to show their support, including a man in a beige sport utility vehicle who pumped his fist in the air as he honked three times.

"The only thing you can't see on these people are their horns," Mark Halper said of the township. "They are evil personified."

Township Mayor Brian C. Wahler released a statement, saying "the township is pleased that Larry and Clara Halper have chosen to peacefully leave the Piscataway Township -owned property. It was always hoped that this family would abide by the rulings of the court, including the New Jersey Supreme Court, and like the others who lived on the property, relocate."

Calls seeking further comment from Wahler were not returned.

Anne Gordon, the township's public information officer, said the police were sent to safely remove the family and denied rumors a SWAT team was dispatched to the home.

The Somerset County Sheriff's Office was originally ordered to evict the family, but Hurley authorized the township to remove the family however the township saw fit. The township police referred all questions to the mayor's office.

The departure ends a contentious week for the Halpers, who were ordered to vacate the property by 3 p.m. Monday but chose to stay in defiance.

The family and township officials have been in a bitter dispute since the fall of 1999 over the 75-acre farm the township seized under eminent-domain laws to be used as open-space preservation. The family had owned the farm for more than 80 years.

The Halpers contend the seizure process has been filled with conflicts of interest involving attorneys, judges and officials at the state and local levels.

The family was to be awarded $4.3 million, representing the 1999 assessed value of the farm, but that money has been frozen.

"We've gotten nothing," Halper said. "Now we have no where to live and nothing to show for our home. What do they expect us to do?"

Mark Halper said the family is going to court again Monday to fight for possessions that were left behind.

 

Copyright 2006, Courier-News.

http://www.c-n.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060722/NEWS/607220314 

 

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Asbury Park Press, NJ - July 18, 2006
... The farm, at the corner of Metlars Lane and South Washington Avenue, qualified as public-purpose property and open space under an eminent domain ruling from the New Jersey Supreme Court, which had set a July 10 eviction date for the Halper family. ... "Unbelievable. I never thought I'd live to see something like this," said Clara Halper, standing a few paces from her home where an American flag flew above a makeshift grave marker. The faux marble monument lamented the passing of "5th Amendment Rights." ... Soon after the deadline passed, Franklin Mayor Brian D. Levine stopped by the Halper home. "I'm showing my support to people here," Levine said. Though Levine said he thought the right of government to seize property for the public good is on occasion justified, he said municipalities need to be cautious when taking any such steps. "I'm tired of eminent domain. I hate to be cynical, but I think Piscataway is being disingenuous," he said. Levine said he would welcome the Halpers to Franklin. "If there's a fit, that would be terrific," he said. ... Halper said the township had failed to keep its promise of helping the family relocate, physically and financially. http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060718/NEWS03/607180356/1007
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