Atlantic City Man Loses First Round in Real Life Monopoly Case

By | November 26, 2014 | 2:38 PM EST

Charles Birnbaum standing before his apartment building on Oriental Ave. in Atlantic City, NJ. (Photo courtesy of Institute for Justice.)

( –  An economic development authority can use its power of eminent domain to seize an elderly man's property on Atlantic City’s famed Oriental Avenue even though it has no specific plans for the site, a New Jersey Superior Court judge has ruled.

But Robert McNamara, the Institute for Justice (IJ) attorney who has been representing Charles Birnbaum in his fight to keep the three-story apartment building he inherited from his Holocaust survivor parents, vowed to appeal.

Birnbaum uses one of the apartments in the 1921 building as a studio for his piano tuning business and rents out the other two units to longstanding family friends.

However, two years ago, the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) started condemnation proceedings against Birnbaum when he refused to sell so the agency could develop the area around the now-shuttered Revel Casino.

But the judge ruled that the state legislature’s stated goal of promoting tourism was sufficient legal justification to seize Birnbaum’s private property.

“This Court concludes that the State of New Jersey’s effort to promote tourism in Atlantic City and assist the ailing gaming industry is a valid public purpose to justify the taking of the Birnbaum property,” Judge Julio Mendez wrote in his 27-page ruling. (See CRDA v. Birnbaum ORDER.PDF)

“Today’s ruling means that Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) can take any piece of property in Atlantic City, anytime they want, for any reason or for no reason,” McNamara said in a statement immediately following the decision.

“The idea that any government entity can be trusted with that level of power is appalling and outrageous. The Constitution of New Jersey does not allow this, the people of New Jersey should not tolerate this, and neither Charlie nor the Institute for Justice will permit this ruling to stand.”

“If Charlie’s property is not safe, no one’s property is safe,” IJ President Chip Mellor added. “The only thing that stands between the people of New Jersey and this kind of unprincipled government theft is an engaged judiciary, and that is why this ruling must be and will be appealed.”

Related: Real Life Monopoly: Atlantic City Man Fights to Save Oriental Ave. Property

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