The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) has 180 days to “reevaluate the feasibility of the proposed project” and introduce concrete plans that justify its use of eminent domain to seize Charlie Birnbaum’s Atlantic City family home as ruled by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez on August 20.
Drawing national attention, the case, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority v. Birnbaum, is a battle between longtime Atlantic City resident Charlie Birnbaum who includes Frank Sinatra to the long list of customers he has tuned pianos for since 1980, and the CRDA. Charlie inherited the family home that belonged to his parents who both survived the Holocaust. Peter Dickson, eminent domain expert, of the New Jersey firm Potter & Dickson, and the Institute for Justice (IJ) represent Charlie and his wife Cindy in the litigation.
The CRDA’s justification for the land grab is one of public use, but the economic development and redevelopment of the neighborhood surrounding the recently bankrupt Revel Casino, and the Birnbaum house sits on the very edge of that area. The property, a well-maintained brick townhouse, is not necessary to the development of the neighborhood, according to the IJ, and maintains that the CDRA is free to purchase any or all of the many empty lots that for sale in the neighborhood.
Judge Mendez’s statement, “Birnbaum is willing to ride out this period of Atlantic City uncertainty and maintain ownership of the family property,” mirrors the widespread concern over Atlantic City and its future, and the fact that while many others are willingly leaving the city, Charlie wants to keep tuning pianos in the home that has been in his family for the past 50 years.