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Hannity

Losing a Home To Make Way For a Casino?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," January 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: As we continue on "Hannity & Colmes", I'm Sean Hannity.

Niagara Falls, New York, resident Patricia Van Egmond may lose her home of 50 years, all because an Indian casino wants to expand.

Now, the state of New York is using eminent domain to take Mrs. Van Egmond's home and give it to the Seneca Nation of Indians as part of a land deal with the state of New York set up with the Senecas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICIA VAN EGMOND, FIGHTING TO KEEP HOME: I've lived here 50 years, and now they're taking the house away from me.

I got married in '56 and we moved into this house and I've been here ever since. It was my husband's home before it was ours. His family lived here, and then when we got married we moved in. My husband has been dead for 21 years. And I stayed here with children and raised my family.

Now, they want to take my house, and it's just not my house — I mean, it's where I live. It's where I work. It's my tenant upstairs. I'm losing a lot with their taking it. It's hard moving when I've never moved. I've never experienced moving. And it's just — I just hate giving up my house.

Just because they can — it's their land, or they say it's their land, they can just come and do it and we don't have a say in it, which isn't right. You just can't take the house away from me.

We don't know when they're going to just come and say, "You have to move out." We have no idea. We have no time zone whatsoever.

I don't know where I could find a house to replace the house I have for the money they would give me. I don't think they can just come in and say they want my house and take it, and I don't — I don't know what they're going to do with it when they do take it.

I don't know if they have any definite plans for it. I don't think they do. I mean, like they're not going to build another motel on my house or a hotel at my house. I don't know what they're going to use it for, but it doesn't seem fair that they can just come and take 50 years away from me and just say, "OK, you can go."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: The Senecas sent us this statement, reading in part, "On November 16, 2005, New York state moved forward with eminent domain proceedings to help the Seneca Gaming Corporation obtain land that it had not been able to purchase in downtown Niagara Falls, New York. The property was promised to the Seneca Nation of Indians as part of its gaming compact with the state. New York state offered to use its powers of eminent domain to help the Senecas obtain parcels for which it could not negotiate a private acquisition agreement."

Joining us now, Patricia Van Egmond is with us. Her daughter, Tricia Villani is with us and also Mrs. Van Egmond's attorney, Pat Seely.

Mrs. Van Egmond, I am so sorry. I can't believe this is my country and this is happening all over the place. Did they ever come and offer you money for the home?

VAN EGMOND: They made us one offer.

HANNITY: And was it within the realm of what the market is? Or a very generous offer? An offer you can't...

VAN EGMOND: No, it wasn't a very generous offer.

HANNITY: It was not a very generous.

VAN EGMOND: No.

HANNITY: So then — I for the life of me, I'd be most angry with Governor Pataki and the state of New York for allowing this to happen. What recourse do you have now?

VAN EGMOND: I don't really know. I mean, we're trying to fight it, but I don't know where it will get us.

HANNITY: Trisha, this is your mom. This is your home.

TRICIA VILLANI, DAUGHTER: Yes.

HANNITY: The home you grew up in. And you find out one day, your mom calls you up and says, "By the way, I have to get out of my house. I've just been thrown out by my government so that they can build, you know, a casino."

VILLANI: That's exactly what's happening. And the letter that we did receive from the casino was in October, I believe, of 2003 when they made their initial offer of 20 percent over the assessed value.

COLMES: Yes.

VILLANI: You can see by the size of our house, there is not a single piece of property in the city of Niagara Falls — she's going to be losing her rental income from the man upstairs. She has no mortgage. She works across the street at Catholic charities. She walks to work.

So if we have to move her out of there, that means she now has — she doesn't like to drive so she's going to have to lose her job...

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: It's Alan Colmes. I want to get to the attorney for just one second here and, Pat, ask you. The state promised 52 acres, twice as much as they could actually deliver. Isn't that the problem here? They committed to twice as much as they could actually purchase and said they'd use eminent domain to get the rest. They didn't have the right to do that, did they?

VAN EGMOND: No.

COLMES: So what can you do about it?

PAT SEELY, ATTORNEY: Well, the problem that we have is that the state has contractually agreed to use their power of eminent domain to get the land to the Seneca nation.

This is really an unprecedented move by any government. I'm unaware of any case like it in my research or any of the other practitioners in this area. No one's seen anything remotely like it. And so the problem that we have is that it's really a gross reach beyond what the power of eminent domain was intended.

HANNITY: Pat, I wish you all the best. Mrs. Van Egmond and Tricia, I wish you guys the best. I hope we can help you.

VILLANI: Thank you. Thank you for having us.

VAN EGMOND: Thank you.

SEELY: Thank you very much.

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