An Atlantic City piano tuner whose family home is set to be taken by the state delivered an online petition with more than 100,000 signatures to Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday.
Charlie Birnbaum’s Change.org petition targets the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority’s plan to take the house in the shadow of the closed Revel Casino hotel, which overlooks a large swath of vacant land.
Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez ruled last month that the state agency can use eminent domain to seize the house. He cited an “appropriate public purpose” for the property. Birnbaum, 67, has asked Mendez to reconsider.
A spokeswoman for the CRDA said the agency wouldn’t comment because of the pending litigation, while officials from the Christie administration weren’t immediately available to comment.
Robert McNamara, an attorney representing Birnbaum from the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, has argued that the CRDA doesn’t have specific plans for the land, other than take it and “think really hard about what they’re going to do with it.”
The CRDA argued that it needed the property to create a tourism district and that it is not obligated to disclose what specific stores will occupy the property, court records show. Stuart Lederman, an attorney for the CRDA, said last month that Mendez’s ruling “upheld the broad powers” that the CRDA has and will allow the agency to continue revitalizing Atlantic City.
Birnbaum doesn’t live in the three-story brick house on Oriental Avenue, but he is there often. He uses the first floor for his piano-tuning business and rents the top two floors to tenants.