Diner: "Waiter, theres a fly in my soup!"
Waiter: "Your soup? We don't respect private property anymore, its his soup too."
Unable to purchase an old Sears building in Camden using fair negotiations, Campbell Soup Company has asked the Camden Redevelopment Authority to use government force to acquire the property for them.
Campbell soup has begun a revitalization of the area known as the Gateway neighborhood. In 2007 the State of NJ named Campbell as the master developer of the area. Campbell has invested heavily in the Camden area, building a new headquarters.
The old Sears building sits in Campbell's redevelopment area. The current owner, Ilan Zaken, refuses to sell, so Campbells has resorted to using the guns of government to take this property. Campbell Soup wishes to tear down the building and turn the area into an office park. Mr. Zaken has slowly been fixing up the building with plans to turn it into a restaurant supply distribution center.
The threat of of eminent domain exists throughout the city. This past April, the Camden Redevelopment Authority sent threatening letters to four homeowners notifying them that their homes would be taken from them. The Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act of 2004 authorized the theft of private property.
Deborah Hirsch of the Courier Post has quoted Liza Nolan, director of the Camden Community Development Association defending the theft:
While the city and its redevelopment agency already control several hundred such properties, there are thousands more held by private owners and "no way to access them effectively," said Liza Nolan, director of the Camden Community Development Association.
With this law, Nolan said, the city can acquire those properties "within a reasonable time frame and reasonable cost."
"Otherwise, you have to wait years," she said.
Or perhaps acquire the property in an ethical fashion?
Activists in Camden are calling for a boycott of Campbell's products to stop the theft and destruction of the Sears building.
UPDATE: I just received a phone call from Campbell's spokesman Anthony Sanzio. He has read this article and wanted to give me Campbell's viewpoint on the issue. He stated that it is not Campbell doing the dirty work, rather it is the government. He stated that Campbell Soup fully supports the use of Eminent Domain.