Sunday, July 19, 2009

Press conference Monday at City Hall re: Sonia Sotomayor

Willets Point United joins other local neighborhood groups and workers to raise questions about the nomination of Judge Sonya Sotomayor

When: Monday, July 20th, 2009

Where: City Hall Steps

Time: 1:00 PM

Scores of local businesses, their workers, and neighborhood activists will be coming to City Hall on Monday to raise questions about the eminent domain views of Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor. Jerry Antonacci, the leader of Willets Point United, expresses the concern that the judge has shown a lack of empathy for small property owners, homeowners, and small businesses:

“The day has come where people are tired of being abused and tired of having their land, businesses and homes taken. 92% of Americans are against the use of eminent domain for the transfer of private property to another private use. We at Willets Point United are hopeful that Judge Sotomayor will come to see the groundswell of opposition around the country on eminent domain and take a hard look at her previous views. We hope Judge Sotomayor stands for the constitutionally guaranteed right to private property, and honors what the people want and not what developers want”.

Judge Sonya Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States has placed the issue of eminent domain front and center in the nomination process-as US senators have questioned her about her views; in particular a severely criticized decision in Didden v. Village of Port Chester that saw the judge rule adversely against the property rights of a local businessman.

In the Port Chester case, at least in the view of a number of respected legal scholars, the judge signed on to, “perhaps the worst federal court property rights decision in recent memory.” This decision, as well as Sotomayor’s equivocal responses to the questions on eminent domain posed in her hearing last week, is what is causing real concerns among the local New York groups; and the reason why they will be out in force on Monday.

Willets Point United is calling on Judge Sotomayor to come to Willets Point so she can see firsthand what the city wants to do to replace the 2500 hardworking-mostly immigrant-workers gainfully employed with the 250 local businesses facing eviction to make way for a private development. As Antonacci says,

“Property rights used to be sacred, but local governments, with the collusion of the Supreme Court in the Kelo case, have eroded this right-and it needs to be restored to its honored constitutional status. If they can take our businesses away than no one’s home is safe in this country from the reach of greedy developers and corrupt local elected officials. Our fight is the kind of fight that Sonya Sotomayor would have led when she worked for the Puerto Rican Defense Fund a few decades ago. We are calling on her to remember her roots and treat our rights with the respect they deserve.”

Michael Rikon, the eminent domain attorney for the Willets Point businesses, points out that Judge Sotomayor’s Didden decision is a cause for genuine concern:

“I found Judge Sotomayor’s explanation to the Senate Judiciary Committee lacking. She testified that the Didden case was barred by a statute of limitations problem in that the plaintiffs knew that the property was to be taken and did not act timely. That answer avoids addressing the issue of whether a private person could legally demand $ 800,000 from another private party just so the property owner could be able to avoid condemnation. I view Judge Sotomayor’s appointment to the Supreme Court as a threat to property rights.”

Willets Point United, along with the 2500 mostly immigrant workers, calls on Judge Sotomayor, now that she has returned to NYC, to come visit with them at the Iron Triangle to really discover the dangers that the abuse of eminent domain can cause; and to take a fresh look at this salient constitutional issue.