A lawsuit filed in New York state alleges the New Jersey Legislature, in a 2012 law, passed an amendment that gives the state broad powers to regulate the use of land.
Lawyers for the New York State Attorney General say that the amendment was not intended to protect the property owners of the State’s wetlands.
The law, however, says it can be used to protect property owned by other people or entities, like corporations, partnerships, or associations.
The amended statute says, “The Legislature may not restrict the use, sale, lease, or occupancy of any public or private easement or easement-bearing structure.”
Lawyers representing the New Yorkers in the lawsuit, the Alliance of New Jersey Landlords and Tenants, argue that the state can take property owners’ properties for private use without first securing their consent and without regard to the value of the property.
The state has used eminent domain to take property from property owners for private purposes in the past, the attorneys said.
But in the case in New Brunswick, they say, “It is clear that New Jersey is now asserting a more expansive right to regulate property owners, including the right to protect their property.”
The law gives the Attorney General broad authority to use eminent domain for “any public or public purposes, including but not limited to the purpose of acquiring, constructing, rehabilitating, maintaining, maintaining for public use, or protecting the public against pollution.”
The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court, asks the court to declare that the State has a “legitimate and legitimate use of its power to take public property for private gain.”
The state has already used eminent-domain power to seize land in several cases, including to purchase land for the Port Authority and New York City’s Staten Island boroughs.
In its suit, the state argues that the plaintiffs are claiming that the Legislature created a new statute to protect “property owners’ property rights” and therefore the amendment gives the State broad authority “to seize property for personal gain.”
The plaintiffs in the New Brunswick lawsuit say that “the Legislature has not established a legitimate and legitimate public interest that is sufficient to justify a sweeping power to protect such property owners from the adverse consequences of public policy.”
The attorneys representing the plaintiffs in that case are seeking $10 million in damages and $1 million in attorneys fees.
Lawsuits filed in the other cases, such as those in Brooklyn, New Jersey, and the Bronx, New York, were dismissed.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s office declined to comment.