Piano tuner seeking to save Atlantic City family home delivers 102K signatures to Christie

Associated Press

An Atlantic City piano tuner whose family home is set to be taken by the state delivered an online petition with more than 100,000 signatures to Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday.

Charlie Birnbaum's Change.org petition targets the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority's plan to take the house in the shadow of the closed Revel Casino hotel, which overlooks a large swath of vacant land. An introduction from Birnbaum on the petition says that the home "has been a source of love, tragedy and renewal to my family for the past 50 years."

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Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez ruled last month that the state agency can use eminent domain to seize the house. He cited an "appropriate public purpose" for the property. Birnbaum, 67, has asked Mendez to reconsider.

Officials from the Christie administration and the CRDA weren't immediately available to comment on the petition.

Robert McNamara, an attorney representing Birnbaum from the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, has argued that the CRDA doesn't have specific plans for the land, other than take it and "think really hard about what they're going to do with it."

The CRDA argued that it needed the property to create a tourism district and that it is not obligated to disclose what specific stores will occupy the property, court records show. Stuart Lederman, an attorney for the CRDA, said last month that Mendez's ruling "upheld the broad powers" that the CRDA has and will allow the agency to continue revitalizing Atlantic City.

Birnbaum doesn't live in the three-story brick house on Oriental Avenue, but he is there often. He uses the first floor for his piano-tuning business and rents the top two floors to tenants.