Mario Cavalluzzo settled in Elmont 49 years ago after immigrating from Italy.

He worked hard and more than a decade ago bought a small piece of property in Elmont that he rents out to several businesses.

Cavalluzzo, 73, is angry that Hempstead Town might use eminent domain to force him to sell the land on Hempstead Turnpike so a developer can build a supermarket.

Town officials want Cavalluzzo and 22 other property owners to make room for the private project.

"They are going to rob the land from us. How is that fair?" said Cavalluzzo.

Frantz Sylvain, owner of a the Vault, stands in the restaurant he prepares to open in Elmont. (Feb. 27, 2010) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Town officials have declared Cavalluzzo's land a blight, the first step in the condemnation process.

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Cavalluzzo, who pays close to $90,000 a year in property taxes, disagrees with that assessment, noting that his property has four businesses operating on it and a fifth expected to open in the spring. "We don't have empty stores. How can they justify it?" he said.

Property owners are not the only ones affected by eminent domain.

Frantz Sylvain leases one of the businesses on Cavalluzzo's property and has worked for more than two years to turn it into an upscale club with a restaurant and bar.

Under eminent domain, town spokesman Mike Deery said, Hempstead would pay relocation expenses for business owners like Sylvain. However, if landlords and the developer reach private deals - avoiding the need for condemnation - Sylvain might be out of luck.

Sylvain said he has invested $800,000 so far - including $200,000 from a second mortgage on his home and $300,000 borrowed from his brother - and expects to open the club in about two months. "What am I going to do?" he said. "I have to finish it."