New York Metro Area Premiere Saturday, July 11 at 3 p.m. on WLIW21
New Documentary Explores Eminent Domain Abuse in Jersey Shore Community
Greetings From Asbury Park spotlights eminent domain abuse in the small resort town of Asbury Park, New Jersey through the story of 91-year-old resident Angie Hampilos. A Greek immigrant and the great aunt of filmmaker Christina Eliopoulos, Hampilos learned that her seaside bungalow home of over 50 years would be taken by eminent domain – the right of the state to take private property for public use – to make way for 3,100 luxury condominiums in 2002. The one-hour documentary chronicles the devastating effects eminent domain and redevelopment can have on established communities through interviews from three generations of Eliopoulos’ family, neighbors, local government officials, prominent historians, and experts in redevelopment and eminent domain. Greetings From Asbury Park premieres Saturday, July 11 at 3 p.m. on WLIW21, as part of our special summer programming to encourage shoreline conservation and appreciation. An encore presentation will air on Wednesday, July 15 at 1 p.m.
Greetings from Asbury Park features intimate recollections, home movies, rare archival footage, emotive cinematography, and a dynamic soundtrack to recreate the postcard playland and boardwalk dreamland that was the resort city of Asbury Park to illustrate the 29 blocks and 56 acres of waterfront homes, apartment buildings, historic boardwalk attractions, and businesses soon to be boarded up and made ready for the wrecking ball. In one poignant scene, we see Angie, the bulldozers in her backyard, wondering what will become of her beloved flower garden. Walking past streets of boarded up homes, she asks, “Where did everyone go?” Angie and her neighbors join a prayer vigil, appeal to the city’s leaders, and ultimately, face the harrowing reality that a court battle is overwhelming, and their homes and business will be taken over so that others can live there.
According to the Castle Coalition, a grassroots project of the Institute for Justice, when it comes to the abuse of eminent domain, New Jersey and New York are among the worst offenders. In 2007, both states received an “F” grade in the coalition’s 50 State Eminent Domain Report Card, and each state remains among the seven states that have yet to pass any legislation reforming their eminent domain laws since the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London. Asbury Park is an important example of the lengths to which municipalities will go in pursuit of redevelopment, including the elimination of historic landmarks, local identity, ethnic neighborhoods, and older communities.
“Many in our community like my auntie — immigrants, older folks, working class folks — endured three decades of rust, riot and ruin and they never lost hope and they never lost heart,” explains Eliopoulos, “Yet these same families were the first ones who were told that they had to leave.” Eminent domain abuse disproportionately hurts the poor, minority and other historically disenfranchised and comparably powerless communities, according to a 2007 report issued by the Institute for Justice, which analyzed census data from 194 communities, including Asbury Park, Camden, Cherry Hill, Lodi, Long Branch, Maplewood, New York City, Newark, Patchogue, Peekskill, Port Chester, Trenton, Westville, and Yonkers. Recently, eminent domain controversies have made headlines in Brooklyn with the revitalization of Coney Island and the Atlantic Yards Project, as well as in the communities of Willets Point, Queens, Riverhead and Patchogue in Suffolk County, Yonkers and Peekskill.
After receiving the top prize for Best Documentary at the New Jersey International Film Festival in June 2008, Greetings From Asbury Park had a short run on the festival circuit. WLIW21’s July broadcasts bring this important film and its lessons about the price of progress and redevelopment on shoreline and other established communities to the New York metro area. In June WLIW21 highlighted the importance of maintaining the ecology and integrity of Long Island’s south shore with the premiere of Incredible Journey: The Story of West Hampton Dunes, while the May 2009 premiere of WLIW21’s original production Shoreline Sonata: A Long Island Love Story celebrated the region’s beauty, as well as the music and poetry it has inspired.
For additional information and to watch the Greetings From Asbury Park trailer, visit greetingsfromasburyparkmovie.com.
Greetings From Asbury Park is sponsored by Women Make Movies, a national non-profit media arts organization dedicated to the production and promotion of films by women filmmakers. Producer: Kerry Margaret Butch. Director: Christina Eliopoulos