Urban Redevelopment Commission Can’t Take Curley’s Diner

Owners of a beloved Stamford, Connecticut diner challenged the government’s abuse of eminent domain powers to take their property and transfer it to a private development company. Despite winning in court and having the support of 7,000 residents, the diner must still endure the city government’s push to have large-scale development projects built at their doorstep, surrounding the tiny restaurant.

Urban Redevelopment Commission Can’t Take Curley’s Diner

Greek immigrants (and sisters) Maria Aposporos and Eleni Begetis have owned Curley’s Diner – a revered staple of downtown Stamford, Connecticut – since the 1960s. That almost changed in October of 1999, when Stamford Urban Redevelopment Commission (SURC) attorney Bruce Goldberg flatly told Aposporos, “We’re taking your property and we’re giving you $240,000 for it.”

Aposporos believed SURC officials were abusing their powers of eminent domain – the government’s ability to take private property for a public use – because the SURC wanted to transfer the property to Corcoran Jennison and Berkeley Partners Incorporated, a private company seeking to build an upscale 11-story apartment complex and new office space and retail stores on the Curley’s Diner site. Aposporos filed a lawsuit against the SURC to keep her restaurant. In a demonstration of community support against the condemnation, nearly 7,000 Stamford area residents signed a petition protesting the SURC’s plans to close the beloved diner.

In February of 2002, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in favor of Aposporos. The city was ordered to pay over $100,000 in legal fees incurred by Aposporos and Begetis. Commenting on her victory, Aposporos said, “This is my paradise. I [still] have my view of the park, of the trees and the flowers.” But not willing to admit defeat, SURC’s now former executive director Laszlo Papper proclaimed, “They [Aposporos and Begetis] have the property and the [development] is going to go around it.” Since the case’s closing, the city hardened its push for development with a “super-block” Target retail store that opened just north of Curley’s Diner. Its latest plans are to erect three buildings for 410 apartments and a 500-car parking garage on land around the diner. Aposporos says there are those in the city government “who think they can do whatever they want.”

Sources: Fairfield County Weekly (April 17, 2003; May 15, 2003), Connecticut Libertarian (August 2002), Mugged by the State (Regnery, 2003, pp. 24-27), Stamford Urban Redevelopment Commission, Connecticut Post (October 13, 2004), New York Times (October 9, 2004)

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