Sunday, June 22, 2008

history around the corner

I live right near the newly-relocated Kelo house, the pink cottage that became a symbol of the evils of eminent domain in the 2005 Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London.

How did I learn this? I wrote about it for today's paper:

New London - Avner Gregory's new home on Franklin Street sticks out from the houses around it. His house has a stone stake in the front yard that says “Not for sale.” Also, it's an eye-grabbing shade of pink.

But 36 Franklin St., which was originally Susette Kelo's home in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood and became the focal point of a Supreme Court case that sought - and failed - to save her neighborhood, is just as much a symbol as it is a house.

Its reopening at its new location Saturday afternoon drew a crowd comprising fellow plaintiffs and locals as well as activist visitors from throughout the region. Institute for Justice senior attorneys Scott Bullock and Dana Berliner traveled from Virginia for the occasion. Bullock had argued Kelo v. City of New London before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005.

They all thronged the property, pervading the quiet street with anti-eminent domain spirit to the tune of resident Dan Gross singing “Shame Shame Eminent Domain” in the backyard.

Bullock “insisted the house should be pink,” said Gregory, a local landlord and preservationist, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the front steps of his new residence.

”I don't like pink!” Gregory joked, shortly before cutting the pink ribbon stretched between banisters. Kelo, who now lives in Groton, stood beside him.

The last portions of Fort Trumbull's working-class neighborhood were taken after the Court ruled that the city had the right to use eminent domain to acquire property for private economic development that would benefit the public by bringing jobs and tax revenues to the city. Since the decision, 42 states have passed amendments or laws giving property owners facing eminent domain more protection, according to the Institute for Justice.

”The Supreme Court loss energized the entire country and created a backlash that changed everything,” said Berliner, one of the attorneys. “Not a single state has adopted the Kelo decision for its own, and that says something.”

After the ribbon cutting, attendees were invited to tour the Kelo house. There was also a pink, house-shaped cake which, like the original, had “Not for sale” written on it in icing.

”I think it's great,” Kelo said of her cottage finding a new address. It was removed from its Fort Trumbull site in pieces and reassembled on Franklin Street.

”It's unfortunate we couldn't save everyone's house,” she said.

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