For THE ADDISON ADVOCATE, another blog, click the 380-402 link up top
Info on NEWARK TENANTS UNITED is in the right column, scroll down a bit
Info on NEWARK TENANTS UNITED is in the right column, scroll down a bit
draft Rent Control Presentation
NEWARK TENANT NEWS BLOG
August 28, 2016: There is a National Renter's Day of Action set for September 20 and 21st. Rent Control advocates are planning action in Newark. Newark Tenants United is generally supportive of these plans, but it's not our show. This event will come about 6 weeks before the Presidential election. It would be great for the issue of rent control and affordable housing to become the subject of discussion among the candidates.
August 27, 2016: Newark Tenants United has begun the process of creating by-laws and formally electing an Executive Board. We are basing the by-laws off those of the 425 Mount Prospect Tenants Association.
Here is the website for the Newark Apartment Owner's Association People can register to receive regular news updates from them; probably a good idea for concerned tenants to sign up. Of note, the NAOA mailing address references a CO to Rock Properties, which is the same group processing a 10% Hardship Application with Rent Control for 559 Broadway. The NAOA President is Andy Cohen, who owns multiple older buildings in Newark and vicinity, plus new construction at 380 Broad Street (not subject to rent control). 380 Broad Street is on the block just north of Route 280. The NAOA attorney is Derek Reed, and the Executive Director is Naomi Burstein.
August 26, 2016: Objections have been raised about a series of slides entitled "What's In It For Newark" in the draft Rent Control Presentation These detail the economic benefits of rent control. The economic slides are NOT going to be removed, as they are the centerpiece of the Public Policy Battle over rent control.
Up until now, the battle over rent control in Newark has been cast by our adversaries as "Tenants wanting to save money versus the economic advancement of Newark". This has been absolute nonsense from day #1. We have always believed that our cause is best for Newark, not just for tenants.
1. The landlord's vision is based on Trickle-Down Economics / Reaganomics / Keynesian economics. Republican economic theorist Alan Keynes believed that maximizing the profit of the very wealthy would invigorate the economy, and that some of this wealth would "trickle down" to the middle class, working class, and the poor, "lifting all boats". In the Newark version of this theory, rents should increase as much as possible, and outside landlords should be allowed to maximize their personal profits. The landlords should be given a huge incentive (20% rent increase) to modernize vacant apartments, and the resulting construction work would generate economic growth and jobs. In order to supercharge this business plan, the landlords want to reduce how much they need to spend in the vacant apartment. This has been the centerpiece of the struggle over rent control for the last 27 months. Let's be upfront and say that the landlord's whole argument is a tough sell in a city that is more than 90% Democrat according to Movoto.com http://www.movoto.com/guide/augusta-nj/best-places-to-live-in-new-jersey-for-democrats-and-republicans/
Not too many folks support Trickle-down economics. Nobody in Newark is loving the 1%.
2. The tenant's vision is based on the principle that the consumers control the consumer economy. The more that consumers have to spend, the more the economy expands and the more jobs are created. When consumers are squeezed by banks, insurance costs, rent, rising food costs etc., they have less to spend to power the economy. This is common sense and sound economics. Thanks to the Rent Control Presentation, we are in a whole new public policy battle. We have to be clear and upfront with everything we say. No matter how obvious some things are, they still must be written and stated.
Rent control positively affects the economy of Newark in many ways beyond what is documented in the Rent Control Presentation. That presentation was just a summary.
August 24, 2016: Article about Transit Villages and affordable housing
August 20, 2016: A few news items
1. Tenant Protest songs were emailed to us by one of our friends working on the national tenant movement. These are also permanently accessible in "Resources to Help NJ Tenants" on our right column
2. Tenant leaders are still finalizing the rent control presentation. The link above the words "Newark Tenant News Blog" is not the final version. This author sees the need for one comprehensive 4-minute presentation, and several smaller and more focussed presentations in the 30-60 second range for those viewers who live on sound bytes and will not process a 4-minute presentation. Sadly, the latter describes most of the younger adult generation. Completing this project will take eve more time. In the interim, the need to have something online is so overwhelming that it is necessary to post a draft presentation.
City officials already know that tenant leaders are planning a major rally, there's no need for us to pretend that it is top secret. It's better that our Newark elected officials understand that the level of tenant opposition to any bad rent control ordinance under development will be far in excess of all previous efforts. The Rent Control Presentation, the Rally, and much greater media coverage are all in the works. Ultimately there could be a political solution to the deadlock between landlord and tenant leaders. The landlords are going to try and buy the 2018 Newark municipal election.
3. Jersey City activist Hakim Hasan has another op-ed printed in the Jersey Journal, which focusses on the depressing effect of litter and chaos upon a neighborhood. Hakim Hasan Aug 20, 2016
August 19, 2016: NY Times article on investment and development in Newark. Talks a bit about the upwards pressure on rents, and cites the high rents of new development in Newark. New construction is exempt from rent control for 30 years. In Newark, A New Chapter Unfolding Aug 19 article
August 17, 2016: Jersey City Planning Board approves mega-development for Journal Square, including luxury towers of 59, 72, and 79 stories Journal Square development in nj.com
August 16, 2016: General article about rent control. Paul Krugman, your wrong about rent control Readers will note that even this article is wrong about capital improvement surcharges. They are not being done everywhere along with rent control. Our groundbreaking ordinance outlawed them here in Newark.
August 9, 2016: Wall Street Journal article from January that details the severity of the rental housing crisis nationwide. Escalating rents further limits the ability of tenants to save money for downpayment and closing costs on a home. January 2016 Wall Street Journal article
Our readers are encouraged to forward us articles about tenant and housing related matters, for posting here.
August 3, 2016: BAD RENT CONTROL ORDINANCE STOPPED AGAIN. The Newark city council voted to send the bad Rent Control Ordinance 16-1109 back to the administration. It is not proceeding. Strong emails were sent to the elected officials by Joseph Della Fave of Ironbound Community Corp, Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United, and Matthew Shapiro of NJ Tenants Organization. Emails were sent by concerned tenants as well. It appears that the primary responsible city official for this ordinance is Willie Parker, Corporate Counsel for the City of Newark. Only one tenant leader has been in touch with Parker. He really hasn't heard our input.
Tenant speakers at today's Hearing of Citizens, in order of presentation, were James Powell, Eric Martindale, Janise Afolo, Carol Bodine, Victor Monterrosa, Jr., and Daniel Joseph Wiley. Six speakers is our best turnout ever for a daytime council meeting.
Councilman Anibal Ramos said he wants a meeting with various offices for enforcement at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect, including tenants. He also said there is a Major Improvement Surcharge application pending for that property, which is a mystery because nothing new that benefits tenants was created.
August 1, 2016, 10:15 PM: Newark's Rent Control Struggle is now America's Rent Control Struggle Final Version(abcs).ppsx
August 1, 2016: Updates on news
1. The docket for Wednesday is in Legistar, and there is no Rent Control Ordinance on it. Multiple tenant leaders are on the docket to speak on Wednesday, August 1, 2016 about rent control and related issues. Tenant organizing continues.
2. Sources say that an ordinance to amend and weaken the Civilian Complaint Review Board will not be heard on Wednesday. Newark reportedly has the model ordinance for the entire country. This city's proactive attention to this matter has been critical in heading off the kind of unrest seen in other parts of America. Any move to weaken it has been strongly opposed by those concerned with Black Lives Matter issues.
3. Resolution 16-0898 is up for adoption on Wednesday. This resolution awards $1,293,505 to Underground Utilities Corporation, located in Linden, NJ, to replace broken fire hydrants. The resolution doesn't say how many will be replaced, but reportedly ⅓ of the fire hydrants in Newark don't work. They are disproportionately in the more distressed neighborhoods.
4. There will not be a Rent Control Hearing on August 9th. Maria Hernandez has informed us that the Health Department has not completed their inspection of 559 Broadway, so their Hardship Application has been pushed to Tuesday, September 13th. Hernandez says no other Hardship Applications have been accepted as complete. Some may be in review.
5. The CPI-based rent increases are 9/10 of 1% for August, and 1.0% for September. For those keeping track, it was 7/10th of 1% for June, and 1.0% for July. It hasn't been over 1.0% since January 2015.
July 23, 2016: No news posted in a week doesn't meet things are quiet. It's actually been SO BUSY that I don't even have time to post. Lots of organizing and planning is going on, and that's all I can report.
July 16, 2016: We have a request coming out of Lakewood, NJ for assistance in possibly amending the Lakewood Rent Control Ordinance. They have a crazy clause in their ordinance that allows landlords to reach back 4 years for retroactive rent increases. The word has reached Lakewood that Newark has a good ordinance. Our contact advises that tenants being gentrified out of Asbury Park and other shore points are specifically targeted to Newark for relocation.
Posting a July 11, 2016 article about the Newark Housing Authority selling a property for way less than market value. And now it's being re-sold for 2.5 times that recent sale price. Central Train station article
July 15, 2016: WONDER WHERE YOUR RENT MONEY IS GOING? Newark Landlord Richard Kurtz, who has been so active in opposing the city's rent control movement, is selling his 30,000 square foot mansion in Alpine, NJ for $68 million. Kurtz actually appeared at a Newark city council meeting to oppose the passage of the 2014 rent control ordinance. Thanks to Avi Richardson for providing this link.
2.5 minute video of Richard Kurtz $68 million mansion
I think it's time to start a Tenant Association at Kurtz's complex. After the big rally, I think the tenant leaders should start organizing more market rate properties.
July 14, 2016: Posting some links provided by the Newark Civic Trust, all helpful in reporting code enforcement issues. These links are now posted permanently in the Right Column under Resources To Help NJ Tenants
Newark Lot & Block and Ownership - Newgins
Health Flooding Trash - Newgins
Newark Open Data (tremendous information, mind-boggling)
Newark Code Enforcement Field Inspections
Not sure who is the author, but the following analysis of the crisis situation within Code Enforcement was emailed to us by Bill Bishop >>>
The amount of employees to complaint ratio is 900 complaints to 1 code enforcement personnel.
3500 x 5 days of complaints = 17500 complaints a week. EST time to respond to those complaints are about any where from a month to 2 months.
there are about 2570. abandon buildings in Newark.
They have various issues attached to them one involves the bank the other involves the length of time to resolve a foreclosure and the rights the home owner have to retrieve a house from foreclosure after they are locked out. A lot has to do with cost legal fees which delay time to solve the abandon building issue. Litigation is not simple and all parties involve with resolving who will get the building is a deciding factor how long a building remains abandon.
Newark has about 3500 civilian employees the amount of complaints the city gets a week is about 200 to 1 ratio on a weekly basis.
We as a community has to talk about what "efficiency/progress" means. Business terms it means do more with less. In political terms it means Civil employees is the reason your taxes go up. If we cut civilian employees and privatize that service we will save more. But in any case you do not have that many employees to respond to every complaint that is called in. Privatization means eventually you will pay for that service on a monthly basis. In a lot of municipalities in NJ it is a monthly fee. But then again they are not the largest city in NJ. Passing another legislation in Newark is not going to solve the quality of life issues that occur everyday in Newark.
What will? Gathering information in Fairmount Community and trying to solve all of those abandon buildings to be fixed will take resources and time and that is just one community there are 21 communities in Newark with the same problem. Fairmount community gets 4500 complaints a month. We need to define our expectations. What are we trying to accomplish? What can the community do to help the city? What resources can assist with resolving the issues.
Each year our cost of living goes up. Each year we lose services due to rising costs known as budget cuts or balancing the budget to remain in the previous year range. In reality this add more problems later. Shrinking budgets each year rising costs each year.
The real problem we all are living by a business model. Where economics dictate our lives. No room for error. A spreadsheet today is more important than our livelihood is.
July 12, 2016: Some tenant-relevant news from today's meeting of the Newark Civic Trust. The "Neighborhood Improvement Program" is moving ahead with Fairmount Heights as the pilot neighborhood. We're getting close to collecting the data, and several members of the Newark Civic Trust will be attending their 7/19 meeting. As a courtesy, the group will reach out to city officials and inform them of the code enforcement program, and a presentation will be made by multiple trustees at an upcoming Newark City Council meeting. Once the program rolls out, the workload on code enforcement from just this one neighborhood will be more than their ability to process all the violations. And there's another 19 neighborhoods that are official planning units in the City of Newark. It is an absolute necessity for a major staff increase in Code Enforcement, and to be included in the current budget under review. The only issue is the upfront money, because Code Enforcement is a net revenue-producing program.
The Code Enforcement program will tie in with another program of the Newark Civic Trust, which is a Socially Responsible Banking Ordinance. The banks that do business with the City of Newark can be nudged towards socially-conscious policies, such as advancing repair funds on abandoned houses, and offering low-income mortgages on the repaired properties to Newark residents.
Creating an Auxiliary Police Force is yet another program of the Newark Civic Trust. The organization will be looking to assign one auxiliary officer to the pilot neighborhood, Fairmount Heights. He or she will attend all of their meetings and act as a direct liaison with the Police.
The group will be reaching out to "My Brother's Keeper", and soliciting the involvement of Youth and young adults, perhaps in logging code violations. It is hoped that they will see the progress from their own work, and further develop within themselves a philosophy of volunteering and community-building. One step at a time, Newark is restructuring as a bottom-up grass-roots community. The apathy and defeatism that Newark can never change seems to have evaporated. In order to get things done, the neighborhoods need to become more and more organized, and more and more powerful. It's beautiful to see the pieces of some giant jigsaw puzzle coming together. Newark is really changing, and it's all coming from involved concerned citizens. Proud to be one of them.
The Newark Civic Trust is a program of The Citizens Campaign, based in Metuchen. There are active civic trusts in Newark, Trenton, and Perth Amboy. Plainfield is launching now.
In other news, we made contact with a brand new organization called something like the Essex County Tenant Association Task Force, which is run by Cynthia Afua.
July 11, 2016: Tomorrow's hearing of the Rent Control Board is postponed to the second Tuesday in August. On the agenda is a Hardship Application for 559 Broadway, a 19-unit building.
July 10, 2016: I have a new idea, and I'm calling it the Board of Multiunit Sales. New Jersey needs to set up a Board that approves the sale price for multi-unit buildings that are subject to Rent Control, or will be subject within 15 years. This is needed because buildings are selling for too much money, and that causes the new mortgage to be too high. The result of an excessively high mortgage is that the owners cry poverty, and ask for all sorts of ways to increase rents. Those ways include Hardship Applications, Capital Improvement Surcharges, Tax surcharge applications, and especially Substantial Rehab after a tenant moves out. What those ways have in common is they are all about increasing the rent much faster than inflation. They make tons of money, but it destroys the affordability of the housing unit.
The Board of Multiunit Sales would analyze the rent roll and the full income and expenses for the building to be sold, and then determine a maximum allowed sale price that would allow the affordability of housing to be maintained with a CPI-based rent increase.
July 9, 2016 Rent Control is advancing in some California cities, despite a 1995 State Law putting great restrictions on rent control. Article on Bay Area Tenants
July 8, 2016 A FULL REPORT FROM YESTERDAY'S CITY COUNCIL MEETING. Several things of interest to tenants occurred at the Thursday July 7, 2016 city council meeting
1. The Ramos rent control ordinance (actually written by the administration) was TABLED. The vote was taken, and there was zero discussion about it. At the prior two city council meetings it was deferred. TABLED means it is dead. The vote on the motion to table, offered by Ramos, was 7-0-1, as follows
Ramos - yes
Chaneyfield - yes
McCallum - abstain (reason for abstaining is unknown)
James - yes
Amador - absent
Quintana - yes
Crump - yes
Gonzalez - yes
Osborne - yes
2. The replacement rent control ordinance, also being written by the administration, was not ready for introduction. Just as well, because tenants need to be consulted.
3. The landlord rally was a bust. They had 9 landlords, attorneys, and landlord agency advocates signed up to speak. Only 4 attended and spoke.
- Andy Cohen, owner of 380 Broad Street and several smaller buildings appeared and asked for "a sliver of change" to the rent control ordinance to allow rents to increase 20% for an investment equivalent to 7 months rent (Note: A previous counter-offer from Matt Shapiro of NJTO offered a similar equation, but with a 12-month provision). We are happy that the NJTO equation is being used, but 7 months amounts to vacancy decontrol
- Robert Whitley, Regional Property Manager for Forest Hill Towers, which is the highest-end rental building in Newark, came down from Massachusetts. He boasted that the current owners have owned the building since 1974, (which is 42 years) and they've spent millions in upgrades over the years. He complained that growth in rental income is below 1% over 2 years, but insurance is up 6%, employee health benefits are up 12%, and salaries are up 4%. What he didn't say is that the property itself has no primary mortgage because it's owned for over 42 years, and therefore it is an enormous cash cow. This is one of the most immensely profitable rental properties in Newark, it's like a giant money machine. Whitley also doesn't say is that profit comes first at Forest Hill Towers, and employees and services come second; and therefore the business plan is continually tweaked to maintain the desired profit level. He said they have cut personnel, and he threatened that any further cutbacks will result in loss of services for the tenants. This is not out of necessity, they have plenty of money. It's simply because profit comes first. Whitley demonstrated for the most affluent building in Newark that it's not just the slumlords who think this way; it's an industry-wide abomination. Whitley also wants a change in the substantial rehabilitation section to further maximize cash flow.
- Derek Reed, Counsel to the Newark Apartment Owners Association spoke. He said that no landlord in Newark has applied for a 20% rent increase since the May, 2014 ordinance, which is proof that the $5000/room equation is too high. (He's wrong, a landlord on Mt. Prospect Ave applied earlier this year for 8 units, and was granted approval with no objections from the Rent Control Board). He says that the proposed ordinance does nothing to lessen the protections of existing tenants. (Note: Sounds like he's writing it and giving it to the city council)
- Nikolas Kikas of New Jersey Apartment Owners Association appeared and spoke. He first thanked the city council for the opportunity he has had over the past year or two to meet with them and discuss all aspects of rent control. Says a balance needs to be struck, and the current ordinance is a disinvestment. He wants restoration of capital improvement applications as well as reducing the investment needed for a 20% rent increase between tenants.
- Also present was Rabbi Isaac Frankel, who listed his personal address as a rather deteriorated office building at 50 Union Ave, Irvington. He was registered to speak, but declined.
It's necessary at this point to make a policy clarification. What the landlord lobby wants to do is to increase rents much faster than inflation by doing it when a tenant moves out and repairs are made. That's called VACANCY DECONTROL, and we don't want it. They are appealing to selfish interests when saying that existing tenants are fully protected and won't suffer rent increases. What they don't understand is that the tenants leaders are just not selfish tenants looking to keep our rents low. WE ARE HOUSING ADVOCATES. We want to maintain the affordability of housing in New Jersey. It costs government so much to build affordable housing that maintaining that housing stock that we have should really be the #1 goal. Reposting all of our non-selfish reasons. Maybe this time they will read it >>> Top 10 Economic Reasons to Support Rent Control
In other business, there was again extensive discussion on staffing up code enforcement, especially by Anibal Ramos, John Sharpe James, and Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins. There are currently 8 code enforcement officers for the entire city, which is worse than ridiculous. In addition to staffing up Code Enforcement, Ramos wants 2 aides per council person to be trained and certified in code enforcement, effectively adding 18 part time code enforcement officers. Chaneyfield came right out and said she wants to fine landlords, and says hiring more code enforcement officers will cost a bit up front, but the city will make more revenue than their salaries. "This is called political will" she said.
A "Responsible Banking Ordinance" is in committee. This move is supported by several community leaders.
July 7, 2016: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. A major push by the landlord lobby begins today to undermine and weaken the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. There's not one, but two rent control revisions kicking around. The older one, which we have seen, will be deferred, says Councilman Anibal Ramos. The other is coming from "the administration", which is widely believed to mean Amiri Baraka, Jr. Some sources say it will be an added starter for today's city council meeting, but other sources say it's not ready. Some members of the city council are also objecting to voting on something they haven't seen.
Meanwhile, a half a dozen or so landlords and attorneys are registered to speak at the Hearing of Citizens today. Tenants are generally organized, but not ready for this stealth attack. We have not seen the proposed ordinance from the administration and can only assume it is bad for the very reason that it has been hidden from us, and is being introduced in a stealthy fashion. The following letter was sent this morning to Mayor Ras Baraka and the city council:
July 6, 2016 via email
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka cc: city council members
City of Newark
920 Broad Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Ref: There is No Voter Support for Downscaling Rent Control Protections
Possible First Reading on July 7, 2016
Dear Hon. Ras J. Baraka, Mayor of Newark
Give or take a few percentage points, the City of Newark is roughly:
Given these demographics, exactly where is the voter support for downscaling rent control protections? All of the tenants under rent control support rent control. They are happy about their CPI-based rent increases for the last two years. Almost all of the other tenants are going to be supportive, even if it doesn’t affect them.
What about the ¼ that are homeowners in Newark (actually 22%)? Where do they stand on rent control? Let’s consider a few examples.
So where is the voter support for weakening rent control when you have to dig into the 22% of residents who are homeowners to try and identify any subset that may support a move to weaken it?
Of the 22% who are homeowners, maybe there is 10% support, and 12% against. And of the 78% that are tenants, maybe 77% support the 2014 ordinance, and 1% for whatever reason can be fooled into supporting the bad move proposed. 10 + 1 = 11. At most, there’s 11% of the citizens of Newark supporting a weakening of rent control.
The numbers just aren’t there for the landlord lobby, and it’s not even close. Even if only homeowners voted, you wouldn’t have a majority on the landlord’s side. It’s politically stupid to pass an ordinance weakening rent control. The Newark Tenants Movement is stronger and more organized than we have ever been. We are reaching out and educating the public. We are in every Ward. We have organizations, community leaders, and pastors supporting us. We are initiating a major public relations campaign which defines rent control as an issue of social and economic justice.
We know that a few of the landlords and their agents are on the docket to speak at Thursday’s Hearing of Citizens. They will use every scare tactic in the book, and they will try and pit this issue as homeowners versus tenants. Their points are statistically insignificant and can be easily out-debated by myself. The real battle over property taxes is shifting the tax base towards office, retail, and light industrial, and bringing in that development. You all know that, and frankly if one of you doesn’t, you shouldn’t be holding office.
At this point, it’s not about being right (we are right, of course. That’s a given). Today I am not appealing to your intelligence, your compassion, or your logic.
This ordinance is about what is politically smart, and what is politically stupid. You are either for the average person in Newark, or you are against the average person in Newark. It’s that plain and simple.
Mr. Mayor, let my respectfully submit that you’ve given too much latitude to members of your administration to rewrite this ordinance, and they are borderline insubordinate to the extent that they wish to unravel the rent control protections passed in 2014. They are against your ordinance, which is one of your contributions to social and economic justice in Newark. You should be as proud of your ordinance as we are. It already has national attention.
This issue of rent control is not going away, and if anything the city council and members of the administration are going to supercharge it if a pro-landlord ordinance is passed.
Rent control is an inseparable component of affordable housing (aka Workforce Housing) and all issues of social and economic justice. If this administration or this city council wants to make a major public policy decision against social and economic justice, you will be denying the average person of his or her rights. You will be alienating the vast majority of the public.
By passing a pro-landlord rent control ordinance, you will be doing the very thing that the Republican Senate and the Republican House of Representatives does. You will be siding with big business and screwing the average person. If you are sick of the Republican Congress, I don’t want to hear your complaints, I want to see YOUR EXAMPLE. You can talk the talk, now it’s time to walk the walk. Don’t defer the ordinance, vote it down on First Reading.
380 Mount Prospect Avenue, #10-C,
Newark, NJ 07104
July 2, 2016: Tenants interested in seeing great fireworks are encouraged to go to Livingston on July 4th. I've been to several in Essex and Bergen Counties over the years, and Livingston is the best I've seen. it is way better than Branch Brook Park, which was postponed this year due to the weather. No word on that reschedule date.
July 1, 2016: UPDATE ON THE CODE ENFORCEMENT PROJECT. The Citizens Campaign is moving forward with it's Code Enforcement project for Newark. Eric Martindale was tasked to create and submit the spreadsheet which will document the violations. This has been done, and it's been accepted by the group. The project may have a GIS component as well. The pilot neighborhood is likely to be Fairmount Heights, located in the West Ward, a neighborhood which has no shortage of violations of all kinds. The plan is to eventually roll it out for all of Newark, and to use this Code Enforcement Project as a catalyst for community building and community organizing. This is a true "power to the people" initiative, and it's going to have a big effect in the long term. The City is just going to have to staff up Code Enforcement, because the workload coming is going to be mind-boggling. The Urban League has a supporting role, along with the Fairmount Heights Neighborhood Association. The plan is for EVERY violation to be noted, and then the list can be updated monthly.
Extensive research is ongoing for procedural reforms for Rent Control in the handling of Hardship Applications. Matt Shapiro has provided the relevant sections of the Fort Lee Ordinance to document what type of actions a Board may take in gathering needed information from applicants. It might take some time to persuade the Board to move in this direction, and it is unknown if these changes will affect the 559 Broadway Hardship Application on July 12th.
June 29, 2016: The tenant leaders met last night. Among other things, we decided AGAINST posting the Pay to Play Information we are gathering. We're going to keep it in our back pocket, and to use it or forward it when needed. We have a file 2" thick just on Councilman Ramos. We have designated a volunteer to research more elected officials.
June 27, 2016: CITY OFFICIALS BEWARE, FOLKS ARE WATCHING YOU :) Thanks to Carl Hill for his excellent research on Pay to Play legislation, Chapter 51. These documents will be posted on the tenant's website, along with the actual campaign finance reports for elected officials, and their analysis. We will extensively document any potential violations on the part of Newark elected officials taking "too many" donations from landlords and their agents.
June 26, 2016: Tenants at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect (The Addison) are being asked to supplement their security deposit with additional money. This is standard practice EXCEPT that Kettler Management is refusing to acknowledge any additional security given to the prior management, RapAd. Any additional security given to RapAd is considered "gone", and no longer counts on the books even when the tenant produces a copy of the deposited check. One tenant was told by Vonetta Mitchell: "take it up with the prior management". Not so fast. Our understanding is that when a building sells, the entire tenant database including security goes to the new owner.
This is particularly outrageous because we believe that Kettler will soon be terminated. Chances are THEY will do the exact same thing. They are asking tenants for additional security, and good chance they will just take that money and run. These management companies are acting like criminal enterprises. This whole matter will be brought to the attention of Rent Control on Monday.
In other news at The Addison, air conditioning was finally restored. There's an ongoing debate with Rent Control as to whether or not tenants can file for a rent credit for no Air Conditioning.
June 25, 2016: Posting letters from Jacqueline Perry of The Colonades, per her request. She is particularly upset with Councilman Anibal Ramos.
Thanks for this update.
Let me first say that despite the numerous attempts at exploitation of Newark Tenants by the Landlord Lobby, I am so thankful and grateful for all the many past years' victories of the Newark Tenants United in advocating for fair treatment of Newark tenants and ensuring maintenance of tenants' rights under the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. In particular, I thank God Almighty for the "Hearing of Citizens" Team of James Powell, Avi Richardson, Eric Martindale, Janise Afolo, and Victor Monterosa, with Donna Jackson whose speeches were apparently, sufficiently persuasive enough to yield an 8-0 deferment of the Ordinance vote. And as for Councilman Ramos, what and/or who's gotten into him? I never really trusted him before. And without question, he can be sure to forget about any future default votes from me, for any position. Yes indeed, his ordinance-revision proposals are grossly and wholly "outrageous" and, totally "Anti-Tenant". How could he ever even fathom proposing "no jail-time" for Landlords who commit Ordinance violations for which jail-time is the most reasonable and warranted sentence? Are not the Landlords citizens of the United States, too? So how could Councilman Ramos propose a revision that would essentially make violating Landlords "Above The Law"? Moreover, given all of his proposed revisions, how could Councilman Ramos ever possibly expect that any Newark resident could, would or should have any further respect or regard for him as a member of the Newark Council? In fact, it is beginning to appear that he must have some other plans in the works to either relocate or, switch to another team, in the near future. And if so, then so be it--but not at the cost of making Newark uninhabitable for it's residents.
And as for your list of potential requirements that NJTO or NTU might present to the Rent Control Board to consider adopting for the screening of Hardship Applications, I think they are very much on point, long overdue and, perhaps even still not strict enough (because due to the need of outside auditors, appraisers, etc., there may still be enough "wiggle-room left for corruption in the screening of cases") depending on how the outside consultants are selected. Yet again without question, I thank you for them.
In closing, I know that NTU works with many local Tenants Associations in our city, as well as the NJTO. Therefore, you may feel that so much credit should not go to NTU. But, please be reassured that as a tenant of Newark, I thank my God for NTU, for all of your efforts and especially for "hanging in there" and not giving up when not only the Landlords but, even the City Council is going against us. And really, I can only imagine "the worst situation" is where Newark residents would be, if there was no NTU. So once again Eric, I thank you for NTU and, I thank all the speakers who are working hard to get another victory for Newark residents regarding our Rent Control Ordinance. May God Be With & Bless you all And Grant us That Victory! Amen
With my sincerest gratitude,
The Colonnade Apts
In addition to my original letter (below) re: Objections To Councilman Ramos' Rent Control Revisions, I would also like to add that WE MUST PERSUADE THE NEWARK CITY COUNCIL TO VOTE AGAINST RAMOS' PROPOSED REVISIONS BECAUSE:
1) in the long run, they will do major harm to our city. "Absolute power corrupts." And, Ramos' proposals will do just that by essentially giving "a form of absolute power to Newark Landlords". Based on reports and findings of the numerous hearings with the Newark City Council, the Newark Rent Control Board, as well as, Landlord-Tenant Court cases, it has already been unequivocally established that to an inexcusably large degree, Newark Landlords are already failing to provide decent standards of habitability due to long-standing reckless, deliberate, direct and indirect neglect, as well as, through perpetration of much corruption-based violation of and, non-compliance with, several of the standards for housing in Newark and New Jersey.
2) Therefore, in the best interest of our city, the City Council must establish, enforce and, hold landlords accountable to lawful compliance with provision of decent standards of habitability for Newark tenants
3) that serve to secure and maintain the safety and stability of decent and reasonably affordable housing for Newark residents
4) that are in mandatory compliance with Newark Standards and Codes of Housing and,
5) that are be in mandatory compliance with the New Jersey State Tenant's Housing Rights,
6) as well as, meet the health and socio-economic housing needs of their Newark constituents.
7) And finally, failure of the Newark City Council to vote against Ramos' proposed revisions will ultimately only result in two outcomes:
First, there would be mass neglect and pandemonium of our city related to indecent and unreasonably affordable housing which would result in:
a) instability of housing
b) increased homelessness
c) an increase of use of the City's hospitals and health facilities that arealready over-burdened, due to an increase in illnesses related to unhealthy living conditions such as pests, rodents, inadequate ventilation, inadequate heating and cooling conditions, inadequate garbage disposal, etc.
d) an increased demand on the City's Police Department and other Public Safety services due to an increase in the city's crime rates for robbery, drug sales and other crimes committed for the acquisition of money to pay for increased housing costs
e) a decrease in the overall safety of the City, for residents and non-reidents, resulting from the above increase in crimes
f) a potential for increased joblessness amongst Newark residents due to unstable housing
g) an increase in poor educational performance of the students of Newark's Schools due to increased moving, potential evictions and, relocation due to the imposed instability upon the lives of Newark families
h) and an overall decrease in the quality of life for all residents of Newark
Second, Landlords will be the only one's who will reap the gains of unfairly enriched pockets and bank accounts. And furthermore, if Landlords are given "exemption from jail-time" for failing to meet the City and State standards for housing, then they will essentially become "above the law" outlaws
June 25, 2016: Reporting that Wednesday rally at the Essex County Board of Freeholders meeting went well. There was about 10 people in attendance, mostly known tenant leaders. We hope to follow up with meetings. We also made contact with the head of the State NAACP, James E. Harris. We will be working towards a formal letter from them in support of rent control.
June 24, 2016: Reaction in Newark is very very slow to the Christie school funding proposal. This is a major, major issue. The ramifications to Newark, and to tenants, are catastrophic.
June 22, 2016: CHRISTIE SCHOOL FUNDING PROPOSAL COULD CAUSE A TSUNAMI OF TAX SURCHARGE APPLICATIONS. Will Newark tenants be priced out of their apartments by tax surcharge applications ??? Sometimes news is simply beyond belief. Governor Christie has a new proposal which provides "equality" in state expenditures for public education. He wants every city or town to be compensated $6599 per student, whether it's a wealthy suburb that gets little State aid now, or a struggling city without a large enough commercial property tax base to pay for school costs. For Newark, the State currently pays 85% of the public school budget. Governor Christie's proposal cuts 69% of the total state aid for Newark schools. So the Newark school budget will shrink to 41.35% of it's current level. It's just not realistic. I haven't seen the math, but I suspect this would MORE THAN DOUBLE the property taxes for every property in Newark. Any attempt to increase taxes to compensate for the loss of over $585 million in annual state aid will destroy the city, and force people out of their homes. Businesses would start to leave Newark, and none would want to open up here, because property taxes would be too high. Tenants will be forced out of their apartments as the landlords try to pass the tax increase to the tenants with Tax Surcharge applications to the Newark Rent Control Board. What will happen is that the landlords will win, but market rents will collapse the equivalent amount, so the landlords will still go bankrupt. Meanwhile the wealthier the suburban community, the more it would benefit from the proposed plan. It's like Robin Hood in reverse. Nj.Com Christie school funding article
June 21, 2016: LANDLORDS MET TO OUST KETTLER MANAGEMENT FROM NEW JERSEY. Word has reached us of a huge meeting of the landlords in Newark that occurred about a week ago, after the deferral of the Ramos rent control ordinance. Derek Reed was there, Azure Waterford and Rock Properties were there, and important politicians were there. They are strategizing for the adoption of rent control revisions. They want Kettler gone from Newark and gone entirely from the State of New Jersey. Some sort of action is being taken against Kettler. They are blaming Kettler for instigating the tenants movement with the January, 2014 Capital Improvement Surcharge application at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect. Kettler surely has some blame, but they were simply acting upon the legal advice of the very same attorneys who remain at the forefront of the landlord's opposition to rent control.
June 21, 2016: RALLY PLANNED AT WEDNESDAY FREEHOLDER MEETING: Tenant leaders and concerned tenants will be attending the Wednesday June 22, 2016 Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders Meeting to take a stand on rent control. This Freeholders meeting is being held at the Montclair town hall at 7 PM, at Claremont & North Fullerton Avenues. We have no choice but to mobilize the masses of working poor citizens of Newark to become politically active to ensure our economic survival. Newark Councilman Anibal Ramos is the point man in Newark for the Essex County Democratic machine, and he was their candidate for Mayor in 2014. The Freeholders are DEMOCRATS. We want to hold accountable the Democratic Party and all of its elected officials in their obligation to represent the economic interests of the working poor, who are also voters. They have a moral obligation to support rent control, affordable housing, and economic justice.
June 20, 2016: Celebrating 2 years of rent control in Newark, NJ. We effectively didn't have rent control prior to the 6/20/2014 Furnari ruling. Here's a very informative article from Philadelphia, PA Decade after housing peaked, owners richer, renters hurting
Also sharing Top 10 Economic Reasons to Support Rent Control
June 15, 2016: OBJECTIONS TO COUNCILMAN ANIBAL RAMOS'S RENT CONTROL REVISIONS
Tenant leaders put on one of our strongest performances to date at the Newark City Council's "Hearing of Citizens" yesterday evening. James Powell, Avi Richardson, Eric Martindale, Janise Afolo, and Victor Monterosa all spoke, and all were upset that some on the city council continue their drive to dramatically weaken the Newark Rent Control Ordinance.
Following the tenant leader's speeches, Donna Jackson (who is legendary for her fiery performances on many issues) spoke and concluded with remarks on the rent control ordinance and the need to organize political action, including the 2018 Newark election. We have also received an email from Donna Jackson today, copied to many parties. She wants our tenant leaders and her network to work much more closely together. This will give both parties more influence.
North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos' name is the only name on the ordinance, but he has others that are supportive of changes. The changes he seeks, on behalf of the landlord lobby, are:
Tenants feel that the landlords are in no position to request any changes, having lost every single battle, including their litigation against the ordinance. They are just so arrogant and so unaccustomed to being beaten that they just cannot accept the results. They think they can continue to throw money and lawyers at the problem until they win. It's disgusting.
Councilman Ramos boasted about being elected three times with at least 75% of the vote. He seems to feel so invincible that he can take whatever actions he wants against his own voters without the possibility of major political repercussions. Tenants need to organize a public relations effort in the North Ward which focusses on the Latino community and advises them what Ramos wants to do to help the landlords, and to harm the hard-working Latino tenants.
The tenant's goal was to have the ordinance withdrawn by Ramos, OR have it voted down at the first reading. Neither happened, the Rent Control Ordinance was deferred again to the next council meeting. The vote to defer was 8-0, with Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins leaving right before the vote, and officially recorded as "absent". She really wasn't absent, she was there for the entire meeting. The 8-0 vote means it's on the docket again, and the tenants will continue to raise hell about it. The tenant's movement is not winding down, it's intensifying.
Tenant leaders will be meeting to formulate a plan of action.
Meanwhile, we got a request from the Bloomfield Tenants Association to partner with them and the NAACP in a class-action lawsuit against landlords. We'll be investigating this possibility further.
June 14, 2014: Three major developments today in the Newark Tenants Movement
(1) Tenant leader Richard Ariza attended today's pre-council meeting and spoke. He had extensive back-and-forth discussions with Mildred Crump and Anibal Ramos. The main objectionable element of the existing Rent Control Ordinance is the $5,000 per room equation. Landlords have to spend $5000 per room in order to secure a 20% rent increase, a figure many feel is unattainable. Ariza reports that the city council will defer the Rent Control Ordinance again on Wednesday, and there won't be a first reading. The changes aren't ready, and more review is forthcoming from "The Administration." It's looking more and more the case that Baye Adofo-Wilson, Deputy Mayor for Economic and Housing Development, is a key player behind the scenes in all the attempts to re-write the Rent Control Ordinance. Tenant leaders have had almost zero interaction with Adofo-Wilson. Four tenant leaders are on the docket to speak at Wednesday's city council "Hearing of Citizens". Tenants are most unhappy with the process, the lack of transparency, and the ongoing heavy negotiating with the landlord's attorneys without even 1/10th the equivalent interaction with tenant leaders.
(2) This evening marked the beginning of the Hardship Application for 559 Broadway, a 19-unit building purchased by Rock Properties in June, 2014. About half the units turned out, which is very impressive. The Rent Control Board would not accept the results of a code enforcement inspection, because it was not done in direct connection with the Hardship Application, and it lacked health and fire inspections. (and it turns out there is an extreme rodent infestation, which is a Health Department matter. During the canvassing Monday night, of the 14 tenants contacted, all 14 reported a heavy rodent infestation). As was the case with The Addison on Mount Prospect, the application was postponed for the landlord to make more repairs and get their compliance documentation together. Attorney Derek Reed was there to represent the landlord.
(3) During the public comment section of the Rent Control Board meeting, Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United unveiled policy and process changes that would improve how the Board processes Hardship Applications, and protect the Board from appeals. There hasn't been a complete Hardship Application in over 10 years, and lots of them are coming now, so the time is right. None of these reforms would require an ordinance change. The Board was very interested in the reforms, and wants it submitted in writing. It will be considered by the Board, the Rent Control Officer, legal review, and
This looks like the beginning of a major project, and I am going to open this up to all the tenant leaders for input, especially Matt Shapiro of NJTO. I would prefer that the final document comes from NJTO, but if that is not agreed upon, Newark Tenants United will submit it. A summary of the suggested actions are:
- The Board may, at its discretion, ask an applicant for their Income Tax Returns, including tax write-off information
- The Board may, at its discretion, ask the owner or Managing Member of the LLC for his personal income tax returns, including tax write-off information that may exist regarding the subject property
The Board may, at its discretion, ask the applicant to supply their full income and expense report that they used to determine that they would buy a property, and the calculations that they used to determine the purchase price. This would be relevant for buildings recently purchased.
- The Board may, at its discretion, hire a licensed commercial real estate appraiser, and bill it to the applicant. The purpose would be to determine the building value at the time of purchase, based on the aforementioned pre-sale statement of income and expenses for 12 months preceding the sale.
- The Board may, at its discretion, hire an independent auditor to audit the application, AND bill it to the applicant. Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustments all over New Jersey routinely hire planners and traffic experts to review major applications, AND bill it to the applicant. The laws governing these Boards are the same. The auditor would review the entire application, the income tax returns, and the full income and expense report. The auditor would identify problems, inconsistencies, and various issues for the Board to review. The Board will make findings based, in part, on the auditor's review as well as their own review and findings.
- The Board was asked to review the Fair Rate of Return Equation because the equation currently used increases the responsibility of the tenants as the equity rises. This is a legal absurdity. As time goes by the landlord owns more and more of the building, so the tenant's obligation should go down, not up.
- The Board was asked to craft a Hardship Formula which ties into the landlord's amortization table, and which calculates a slightly lower obligation to the tenant every month, to reflect the fact that the landlord's principle portion of the mortgage payment increases every month, and the interest portion decreases. The problem is that a landlord could be granted a Hardship Application early in the life of a mortgage (the terms of the rent increase would be based, in part, on the landlord having a high interest payment and a low principle payment), but then that higher rent obligation will carry for decades, even as the landlord's equity increases dramatically, and the principle to interest ration changes much more favorably towards the landlord.
None of these potential actions requires a change in the Rent Control Ordinance. They may not even require a change in the Policy and Procedures Manual. These are all things that can legally be done now, and that Rent Control Boards do all over New Jersey. By relying on these outside experts, the Board's decision will be much more fact-based and professional, and much less likely to be labeled as "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable". The city's decisions will more likely hold up to legal scrutiny, in the event that a landlord sues Newark for denying a Hardship Application. Of course, this is all great for Newark, and as the word gets out, there will be less Hardship Applications.
June 13, 2016: MID-TERM POLITICAL ANALYSIS OF NEWARK: The renewed resolve of the Newark city council to make some unfavorable changes to the Rent Control Ordinance has a lot of folks wondering: Just how strong are they? How strong is each Newark councilperson in their seat ? In only a year or so, the political season in Newark will commence in earnest.
Let's reprint the election results from May, 2014 (* depicts winner)
Ras Baraka 24,358 *
Shavar Jeffries 20,593
AT-LARGE COUNCIL RACE (there are four seats)
Mildred Crump 16,065 *
Luis Quintana 14,223 *
Carlos Gonzalez 10,355 *
Eddie Osborne 10,305 *
Patrick Council 9,399
Wilfredo Caraballo 8,736
Linda Lloyd 8,681
Anibal Ramos 5,780 *
Luis Lopez 1,995
John Sharpe James 6,588 *
Brian Logan 1,202
CENTRAL WARD (no winner)
Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins 1,726
Darin Sharif 2,236
Shawn McCray 1,085
CENTRAL WARD RUNOFF ELECTION
Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins 2,265 *
Darin Sharif 1,361
Augusto Amador 2,239 *
Jonathan Seabra 869
Luis Correira 549
WEST WARD (no winner)
Joseph McCallum 1,624
Patricia Bradford 1,303
Robert Keven Waters 1,114
WEST WARD RUNOFF ELECTION
Joseph McCallum 1,624 *
Patricia Bradford 832
It sure looks like anyone who can get 11,000 votes city-wide can win an at-large seat. That seems very attainable for a team of determined pro-tenant candidates
Another observation is that voter turnout is very low in some Wards compared to others. The highest turnout comes from the North and South Wards, but even those incumbants are not secure. Loss of tenant support would reduce the incumbant's total by thousands of votes, plus a surge of new voters would put those seats in play.
The low turnout in the Central, East, and West Wards shows that those incumbants are clearly the least secure in their seats. Those three council members stand to gain or lose the most in terms of tenant support, especially Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins. She will clearly be voted out if the tenants in her Ward turn strongly against her. Whether or not that happens will be decided by the councilwoman herself.
Any seasoned political activist knows that what really matters is not how many voters switch sides, it's how many voters a candidate brings out on election day. Sure, an election focussed on rent control and code enforcement would bring out the tenants in droves, but there's another really big source of likely voters. It's not only tenants who support the tenants movement.
A high majority of homeowners in Newark were once tenants. Many if not most are philosophically supportive of the tenants movement. They have a social conscience on issues of economic justice in Newark and in all of America. They are opposed to gentrification. And they are damned sick and tired of other property owners in their neighborhood not maintaining their properties, and that Code Enforcement in Newark barely exists to do anything about it. A majority of HOMEOWNERS would turn out, and would vote for candidates supporting rent control and code enforcement. So even if the tenants stayed home and didn't vote (surely not happening in the next election), pro-tenant candidates would probably win.
The city council members who have been supportive of the tenants movements should have the political savvy to understand that they have already been marked for removal by the landlord lobby and the landlord's political friends in Essex County. Weakening the tenant protections in the Rent Control Ordinance is not going to stop the drive of the landlord lobby to try and remove the pro-tenant incumbants from the city council. There are existing city councilpersons who need the tenant's continued support. The tenants are their friends, and have the votes to keep them sitting up there. Alienating tenants by weakening the rent control ordinance would be a costly political mistake. They would be going against the full force of the landlord lobby, and they wouldn't have the full support of tenants, and all the tenant sympathizers who own homes. It's time for the city council members to double-down. Just say NO to the landlord lobby, and support any ordinance changes advanced by the tenants.
In other matters, Maria Hernandez of Rent Control is processing the request of Newark Tenants United that tenants receiving notices for Hardship Hearings be told of the percent (%) increase in the notification letter. Tenants at 559 Broadway were not told, nor were tenants at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect. This will be discussed with others, presumably the Director of Rent Control and the Board members. Regarding 559 Broadway, Maria has confirmed that the increase is 10%. The tenant who thinks his rent is going up $300 is misguided.
June 12, 2016: The proposed Rent Control Ordinance that was deferred on May 26th is back on the agenda for the June 15th city council meeting. It appears to be unchanged. Here it is: June 15 Proposed RCO
Council members had various things to say on May 26th when they deferred the proposed RCO. They said it needed more work and more changes, so if that is true then why is it back on the docket unchanged ??? Of note, nothing materialized with the offer from Councilman Ramos to schedule a meeting with tenant leaders. One thing that has changed since May 26th is that the 45 days to appeal Judge Furnari's decision has expired.
Four tenant leaders are scheduled to speak at the June 15th Hearing of Citizens, which will be an evening meeting.
June 11, 2016: Newark Tenants United distributed a flyer at 559 Broadway urging tenants there to attend their Hardship Hearing. Most didn't know about the hearing at all. One tenant said his rent is going up $300, which is way more than the 10% advised by Maria Hernandez at Rent Control.
Rent Control sent a letter to every tenant at 559 Broadway, but the letter doesn't say the percentage of proposed rent increase. This is simply unacceptable. They did the same thing to 380 & 402 Mount Prospect two months ago. This practice has to end. If tenants are going to have their rent raised to a level that will drive them out, they have the right to know what is the proposed rent increase. This information is deliberately being withheld so that few or no tenants will attend the Hardship Hearings. Maria Hernandez wants the evening to go as smoothly as possible, and that means a low attendance. We will attempt to resolve this directly with Rent Control, and if this practice doesn't change, this matter will be taken straight to Mayor Ras Baraka.
June 7, 2016: HARDSHIP APPLICATION TO BE HEARD ON TUES, JUNE 14. A 19-unit building located at 559 Broadway (just south of Delavan) has applied for a 10% rent increase with Rent Control. If approved, it would have the same effect as the recent application at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect --- it will be a precedent-setting case. In fact, the same owner is in discussions with the Rent Control office for a Hardship Application at another property he owns on Woodside Ave.
Maria Hernandez, second in command at Rent Control, says that the inspections were done and all violations abated. She says there is a report from Tommy McDonald stating that Substantial Compliance has been achieved for 559 Broadway
Hernandez says there are no other Hardship Applications kicking around, but she has taken some calls from other landlords inquiring about the process.
June 4, 2016: NO APPEAL ON JUDGE FURNARI RULING: Matt Shapiro of the New Jersey Tenants Organization has given me permission to announce that the 45 day time period to file an appeal of a Superior Court ruling has expired, and no appeal was filed. Matt Shapiro says he has verified with his sources that no appeal was filed. On April 8th, Superior Court Judge Garry Furnari issued a lengthy decision which declared the Newark Rent Control Ordinance constitutional. Judge Furnari ruled strongly against all of the landlord's claims in that litigation. His decision was so lengthy, and he referenced so many New Jersey Supreme Court decisions that this ruling by Judge Furnari was more than the equivalent of a full-size college thesis. This judge REALLY put a lot into this decision, and his contribution to our cause cannot be understated.
Now that the Court option appears to be eliminated, good chance that the landlords are going to double-down on their strategy of trying to persuade the Newark City Council to revise the Rent Control Ordinance. The City Council deferred a bad ordinance on May 26th, but that move is starting to look like pure subterfuge. The REAL revisions are still coming, and the sponsor(s) on the city council are going to position the upcoming revisions as "a compromise that is halfway between the current Rent Control Ordinance and the revisions that were deferred on May 26th." The tenants are not fooled. We are already calling it out. We will intensify our opposition to a level unseen in the four previous attempts to downgrade the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. We are already mobilizing.
June 3, 2016: The winning argument on Rent Control actually made the media. This describes most tenants in northern New Jersey. Consumer spending is way down because the real estate industry (mortgages, rents) and the financial industry (banks, credit cards, insurance) have become so efficient at gobbling up everyone's money that there's not enough consumer spending to power the rest of the economy. All other industries are suffering, and that's why the recovery is slow and true unemployment is very high. Those two industries have a lock on our government, and that's the real problem. In this case, Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame, because none of them are even talking about this, no less proposing any solutions Article: Sacrifice Spending to pay rent
May 31, 2016: We've been wrong about something for years, and we need to set the record straight. Tenant leaders in buildings all around Newark have been telling their tenants that the real problem regarding repairs not being made is the owner not wanting to spend money, not the property manager choosing not to complete repairs. We're now realizing that it is actually both. At the May 10, 2016 Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Avenue, attorney Calvin Souder stated on the record that it is industry-standard for a Property Manager (in this case Vonetta Mitchell) to be awarded a monthly bonus for hitting the company's financial goals. Let that sink in for a minute.
Financial goals take into effect both income and expense. It now appears likely that it is literally the case that a Property Manager will defer maintenance expenses for the deliberate purpose of earning his or her bonus for that month. They are monitoring the expenses made so far in a given month, and then they just stop spending. The decision is "Do I fix this problem that is harming my tenant's quality of life, or do I let them suffer so that I can earn my bonus this month".
This may also be why Property Manager are increasingly stealing one or two weeks at the beginning and end of the heating and cooling season, because running boilers and chillers costs money. They'll activate the boilers in mid-October instead of October 1st, and they'll activate the chillers sometime in June instead of May 15th.
May 30, 2016: For Memorial Day, I'm posting:
TOP 10 ECONOMIC REASONS
TO SUPPORT THE TENANTS MOVEMENT
Tenants and other concerned parties should never concede to the landlord’s position that the tenants movement, or the Rent Control Ordinance in particular, is about economic prosperity versus tenants saving money. That is a false dichotomy. Rent Control and affordable housing is good for the entire economy, for the following reasons:
1. INCREASED ECONOMIC ACTIVITY: If rents are lower, tenants have more money at hand to spend. The consumer economy works strongest when consumers spend. That’s been known for generations, and it is uncontested. Tenants in particular are notorious for spending every possible dollar, and saving nothing. More spending means more purchases of all kinds, and more purchasing means more jobs will be created. (This same argument can be made regarding reducing bank interest rates and fees reducing consumer spending). The banking and real estate industries are acting as sinks. They are consuming all the wealth in America, and the resulting reduction in money being spent by consumers is keeping the whole consumer economy from thriving.
2. MORE STATE & FEDERAL TAX REVENUE: Increased economic activity means businesses will pay more taxes to the State. There will be more sales tax revenue, more payroll tax revenue, etc. More jobs also means more people will pay more Federal and State income tax.
3. MORE BENEFIT TO LOCAL ECONOMY: The landlords make the counter argument that if tenants spend more on rent, the landlords will spend more and generate economic growth. Well, support has completely collapsed for Keynesian “trickle-down” economics. It’s a proven failure, and even many Republicans are starting to doubt it. Money just concentrates with the ultra-wealthy. Spending by the wealthy (in this case landlords in other States) doesn’t help us at all. The best analogy is Colonialism, in which the European powers extracted wealth from the Third World, and then all the spending and economic activity happened in Europe. It’s better for our State to have the tenants save on rent money and spend more, and have all that money stay in our State, and recirculate within our economy.
4. BLOCK WATCH: Tenant Associations are invariably against gangs and criminal activity. They act as a Block Watch to support police activity in buildings, and to remove the criminal element. Gang activity and crime harms buildings and neighborhoods, and the whole economy.
5. REPAIRS TO BUILDINGS: Tenant leaders often bring in Code Enforcement action. Deterioration of units and common areas is addressed, and the quality of life improves. This is typically the only way repairs are ever made, as the landlords otherwise just collect rent and fix almost nothing. The more a property is repaired and the more the quality of life improves, the more it is worth, and the more taxes it pays to the municipality.
6. STABILIZES NEIGHBORHOODS: Low annual rent increases and vacancy control (vacancy control means to stop or limit rent increases when a tenant moves out) encourage tenants to stay and to put down roots rather than give up their rent-controlled unit. This stabilizes buildings and neighborhoods and creates a sense of community that is more conducive to a pro-family environment and children learning in school.
7. ENCOURAGES BUSINESSES TO COME, OR TO STAY: The availability of affordable housing is a major factor in business making decisions where to be located. Big employers strongly consider the housing costs of their employees. They know they have to pay a higher salary to an employee in New Jersey than somewhere in mid-America. This problem encourages businesses to move out of New Jersey, or not expand here.
8. LESS GOVERNMENT SPENDING ON SOCIAL SERVICES: The more that housing of all kinds is unaffordable, the more that Local, County, State, and Federal agencies spend on social services. And we’re talking about more than homeless programs. In a very real sense, most social service programs are to subsidize housing costs. If the housing costs are lower, government pays out less, and taxpayers save.
9. AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND RENT CONTROL IS FOR EVERYONE: Everyone includes young adults fresh out of college, families with young children trying to save money to buy a house and participate in the American dream, and even elderly Republicans living on a fixed income and counting every penny.
10. LESS OPPOSITION TO DOWNTOWN GROWTH: Strong rent control means less community opposition to economic growth in the downtown. There is a great fear of an upwards pressure on rents city-wide caused by upscale downtown development such as office towers and high-end apartments. If the threat of rents increasing cannot be held in check with rent control, community leaders will instead put great pressure upon city officials to reduce economic development downtown. Reducing economic development in the downtown means less jobs and less tax revenues to support police, schools, and social services of all kinds. The answer is rent control, not stopping growth.
The intent is to persuade elected officials to better understand which aspects of tenant organizing, rent control, and affordable housing are compatible with economic growth. In addition, Tenant Associations are against political corruption, and for open government.
May 28, 2016: Day 4 of the heat wave, 96 degrees today in Newark and the humidity is up as well. Still no air conditioning at The Addison, 380 and 402 Mount Prospect. Many tenants suspect the landlord has not activated the main chillers as retaliation for defeating the 17% Hardship Application rent increase on May 10th, and for defeating attempts by the landlord lobby to weaken the rent control ordinance on May 26th. The ordinance we defeated on Thursday would have removed air conditioning as something that must be in 100% compliance, and it would have removed the entire 90% substantial compliance section that was used to defeat the Hardship Application.
May 27, 2016: The 425 Mount Prospect Tenants Association reports that, to the best of their knowledge, their landlord violates the CPI-based rent increase with every new lease signed. New tenants are signing at about $100 more than the previous tenant's leases, an increase of about 10% - 12%. The tenants association has been flushing these new tenants out by talking with them and inquiring what their rent is. They are directing these new tenants to Rent Control to get their leases adjusted and their accounts credited. Maria Hernandez at Rent Control acknowledged on Thursday that five tenants from 425 have complained in recent months, and she got the landlord to adjust all five accounts without a Rent Adjustment Hearing. But the basic problem is unresolved; other tenants who are not in touch with the tenants association or Rent Control are paying too much. The landlord is simply renting units and violating the law with complete arrogance and impunity.
This landlord deserves to be prosecuted and given jail time. If he's that arrogant, he needs to be broken. And he told William O'Donnell, Chair of the 425 Tenants Association that he is not fixing the violations from the April code enforcement blitz. Evidently the fines are a lot less than the repair costs, and it's just the cost of doing business. This is just a sample for what is going on all over Newark.
This landlord is Exhibit A for why the fine structure needs to be increased in the rent control ordinance, and why we need a sit-down meeting between Mayor Ras Baraka, a few tenant leaders, AND the municipal judge that handles code violations to set a stronger public policy.
May 26, 2016: RESULT FROM CITY COUNCIL MEETING: The tenants won again. The city council voted 8-0 (Chaneyfield not present) to defer the rent ordinance. The existing ordinance remains on the books unchanged. There could have been a first reading, but instead it is dead. Our previous 3 victories in defeating bad Rent Control Ordinance changes were made the same way, a deferral. The only thing different this time is it didn't drag out for days or weeks; the city council gave up quickly. Several on the council mentioned emails from tenant leaders and tenant organizations, and noted objections on the record. Special thanks to Avi Richardson for her quick work in organizing the tenant leaders to oppose these changes, and to Matt Shapiro for so quickly putting together a powerful rebuttal and emailing it to the Newark City Council
Councilman Ramos promised Eric Martindale a meeting with tenant leaders to discuss the Rent Control Ordinance.
In other matters, at the same council meeting Ras Baraka appeared before the city council and spoke about economic development and gentrification. He supports development in the downtown, and noted that national retailers are looking for growth in Newark as part of a decision to open a store here. The Mayor said that 90% of the housing built in Newark in recent years is affordable to low and moderate income households, so we are not experiencing gentrification on a city-wide level.
May 25, 2016: SHOCKING NEWS: There is a revised Rent Control Ordinance to be introduced as an "added starter" at a special city council meeting on Thursday 5/26. We found out with less than 24 hours notice. We were able to secure a copy of the proposed changes, and Matt Shapiro of NJTO worked on short notice to send a detailed rebuttal to the Mayor & City Council. The proposed changes are extremely bad, and in many cases worse than the versions we beat in 2014 and 2015.
The changes include removal of the 90% substantial compliance clause just used to defeat a precedent-setting Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Avenue. The city council would be effectively voting to subject those tenants to a new Hardship Application.
The 2014 ordinance included a groundbreaking concept of decoupling the IRS definition of capital improvements from "major new improvements". And then the "Major New Improvements" section was found constitutional in Superior Court. This is of national significance, and sets a precedent for other cities and States looking to improve or launch rent control. It protect tenants from having to pay a rent surcharge to cover building system replacements that need to be done every few decades, like boilers, roofs, elevators, etc. The national lobby wants this squashed like there's no tomorrow. The new wording restores the IRS definition and leaves a giant vague loophole for these type of projects to be charged to tenants.
And there's more changes that are really bad. Tenant leaders have been upset before, and scared before, but in our years of organizing we have never been more ANGRY. Folks are furious at this move after the city spent nearly two years defending the ordinance in Superior Court, and then WON in Court with a tremendous victory on April 8th. And now they are going to just throw it all away ? If this proposed ordinance is passed as written, it would represent a complete betrayal by our elected officials.
If it is introduced and passes on First Reading tomorrow, the second reading and public hearing will be on June 15th, and that's a day-time city council meeting. The timing is all planned, the introduction as an "added starter", and then the final hearing at a time when most tenants are working and cannot attend.
May 24, 2016: I am in communication with Joseph Della Fave of the Ironbound Community Corp regarding the May 20th posting, below. I have requested a meeting with him to discuss their possibly amending their proposed ordinance. I am also honoring his request to post a cover letter he wrote to announce the initiative to community leaders in Newark. The cover letter doesn't mention the "multiplier" issue that I have concerns with, for whatever reason. See below:
Ironbound Community Corporation has submitted to the City a draft Inclusionary Zoning (Affordable Housing) Ordinance. We have been discussing this with the City and they have expressed their support. We are hoping that you and your organization will be supportive of this as it - hopefully - moves forward.
Simply put, the draft Ordinance would mandate affordable housing set-asides in new development projects as follows:
We are motivated by development trends in Ironbound as well as our housing justice principles and a vision of a City that is affordable to all in the future in every neighborhood. We are also wary of the impact of gentrification, including displacement, at least in Ironbound, in the coming years.
Ironbound has seen more than 600 market rate units approved - but yet to be built - that will be marketed to higher income households not residing in Newark - you know, marketed to NY, Hoboken, etc. Additionally, there are many more development projects on the table. The potential, actually the likely, impact on rents and the soul of the community is frightening. Conversely, we believe that community improvement and transformation means uplifting, not uprooting, the people of Newark. This includes protecting people in their homes while trying to support them in meeting their needs and aspirations.
This ordinance is one of the tools we are using to protect our community and ensure affordability and diversity as Newark moves forward. As you will see in the attached summary, the goal of the ordinance is to dissuade high density projects (at least in over-crowded Ironbound) that impact livability and ensure a give-back on large “as of right” permitted projects by mandating affordable housing set-asides as a condition of approval. In addition, to protect people in their homes, we also will be staunch defenders of rent control and promote various tax policies for long time homeowners who occupy their homes, as well as other policies and continuing our organizing, housing justice, and community building work.
This is the second Ordinance we have been part of providing to the City. Recently, along with the NJ Environmental Justice Alliance and former Sustainability Officer Stephanie Greenwood, we drafted for the City a Cumulative Impact/Environmental Justice Ordinance that will require applicants of large industrial projects and others to provide environmental information as part of their application to the Planning or Zoning Board. This will give the Environmental Commission the opportunity to review this info and provide at their discretion an advisory opinion to the Boards – and also give the public more info in the process. The goal, of course, is to protect and advance public health. We and the City have have agreed on a final version that has moved into Legistar.
We hope that in your travels you will speak positively about an inclusive, affordable, and healthy Newark, an ever improving Newark that moves its residents along and does not push them aside, that focuses on and transforms people as well as place in its revitalization – and support the Inclusionary Zoning and the Cumulative Impact Ordinances as two of the means to achieve this.
Joseph Della Fave
Ironbound Community Corporation
317 Elm St.
Newark, NJ 07105
May 23, 2016: An update from the 425 Mount Prospect Tenants Association. They had a Code Enforcement Blitz in April, and 10 pages of violations were found and documented. The landlord has begun retaliation against the tenants. They have begun renting to extremely disruptive tenants, each of which is there only a few months because they don't pay rent. In addition, management has stopped accepting packages, and they just distributed a flyer stating that they will no longer accept rent checks onsite, and instead all tenants must mail their rent checks to Brooklyn. Some good news: 1. They added someone from La Casa De Don Pedro onto their Executive Board, and 2. Their collective action has resulted in the intercom system being fixed. www.425tenants.org
May 22, 2016: The allowable rent increase for Newark has been published for July. It's hit 1.0% for the first time in about 18 months. Here's July and the most recent months
July, 2016 = 1.0%
June, 2016 = 0.7% (7/10th of 1%)
May, 2016 = 0.6%
April, 2016 = 0.8%
May 20, 2016: The Ironbound Community Corporation is proposing an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance to require that 20% of all development is affordable housing. Well, it sounds great and I'm sure they are well-meaning, but as always the devil is in the details. The proposal includes a 1.5 multiplier if a developer wants to build the affordable housing component offsite, and a 2.0 multiplier if the development site is in the downtown, and the affordable housing is to be built offsite. For instance, a developer proposing 100 units in the downtown can either build 20 units of affordable housing onsite, OR build 40 units somewhere else in Newark. The latter option is completely uneconomical, so it will never happen, and that is surely the goal of that clause.
However, let's think about that for a moment. Isn't there a real need to encourage economic development and new construction IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS. Isn't that what Ras Baraka has been talking about ? Bringing growth and investment not just to the downtown, but to the neighborhoods ? The outer neighborhoods, especially those that are struggling, really need new housing that is clean, safe, and affordable. Wouldn't such housing represent an improvement over 100+ year old houses that have been subdivided into apartments, and many of them are aging terribly with outdated floor plans, kitchens, and bathrooms? Don't the people in the outer neighborhoods deserve this affordable housing ? And won't this construction help fill up the schools that are closing down one by one ? Why discourage the private sector construction of affordable housing on Central Ave ? Or South Orange Ave, Clinton Ave, Hawthorne Ave, etc. The Mayor and the City Council really need to think about this one long and hard. It's coming from the Ironbound Community Corp, which is a great organization, but not necessarily fully in tune with the needs of the South and West Wards.
I'm going to take it one step further. Maybe the answer is not a 2.0 multiplier on the affordable housing obligation downtown, but a 0.75 multiplier if they want to help rebuild a struggling neighborhood ? Maybe the city needs to encourage that growth to shift from the downtown to the outer neighborhoods. The downtown is doing just fine, and can take care of itself. And the more it grows, the more it can be taxed so the rest of Newark can have more police and social services. Growth in the downtown means more jobs for the rest of Newark, and last time I checked that's the number one issue in Newark.
The "threat" of downtown Newark becoming a very upscale community is not realistic. There will always be a strong presence of low-income people in the downtown because so many social services are there, including homeless shelters, soup kitchens, Cura, Integrity House, and the YMCA. In addition, there is a low-income Muslim micro-neighborhood on Branford Place adjacent to Broad Street. Low-income people from all over Newark will continue to work in the downtown, and they dominate the sidewalks as well as the buses that link the downtown to everywhere. The "luxury" housing under construction on Broad Street a few block south of city hall is actually middle-income housing. The sign saying "luxury" is just marketing. There actually is luxury housing in the planning stage, but it hasn't been built yet. The downtown of Newark is becoming a place for people of all income levels and all racial and ethnic backgrounds. It's hard to be opposed to that vision, and I am not.
AS LONG AS NEWARK HAS A STRONG RENT CONTROL ORDINANCE, and we do, there should not be resistance to economic growth and development in the Downtown. The ordinance protects us. And that being said, if the ordinance is ever substantially weakened, then the downtown development would actually be a threat towards pushing up rents all across Newark.
After recently coming up with a list of 9 solid reasons why rent control and affordable housing is good for the economy, it's very distressing to see other forces creating a battle between affordable housing and economic development.
May 18, 2016: TENANT ACTIVISM AT NEWARK CITY COUNCIL MEETING OF MAY 17th
1. Three tenant leaders who have been active in the Newark Rent Control movement attended and spoke about the recently defeated Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect. Those speakers were Eric Martindale, James Powell, and Janise Afolo, in that order. Eric gave a brief summary, identified some of the key missing documents not provided to the Rent Control Board and a few of the applicant's accounting irregularities. He discussed the possibility of the landlord suing Newark, and that we have all the documentation that the city would need. James Powell also thanked the City.
Janise, who serves on the Rent Control Board as a tenant advocate, discussed some of the Board's deliberations and thoughts, especially related to Substantial Compliance, and that a building should always be in compliance. She was particularly disturbed by the landlord's claim that they needed the money for repairs, and stated that a Hardship Application is for profit, not repairs.
Janise then reiterated a pledge made in a December 2015 meeting between tenant leaders and Ras Baraka, Anibal Ramos, John Sharpe James, and Gayle Cheneyfield-Jenkins. That pledge was to show any new draft Rent Control Ordinance to the tenant leaders before introducing it. There's again talk of changes, and it might have something to do with Bloomfield. The landlord lobby is very upset that Bloomfield very nearly adopted a mirror image of Newark's ordinance, and that the movement to restore Rent Control in Bloomfield (after 22 years of no rent control) was in part energized by folks in Bloomfield reading about Newark adopting a stronger ordinance. As long as Newark's ordinance is on the books unchanged, that's considered an existential threat throughout New Jersey.
I say it's an existential threat nationwide, and we Newark tenant leaders should all be proud of it. Only 4 States currently allow rent control, and of the cities and towns that do in those States, there's more of them in New Jersey than the other 3 States, combined. The landlord lobby really hates the Newark Rent Control Ordinance.
After nearly 2 years of hearing non-stop complaints from tenants all over Newark at city council Hearing of Citizens, it's becoming clear that the new city council members, especially Councilman McCallum, generally believe the tenant's claims that landlords are collecting rent and fixing nothing. And they are getting sick of it. There was talk from the Council about hiring more Code Enforcement officers in this year's budget. Their support of tenants is much stronger now than after 3 or 6 months of their incumbancy. And the credibility of the landlord lobby is down, because so many tenants independently have very similar stories.
Three tenant leaders from 301 Irvine Turner Boulevard appeared and spoke at length about their problems, which include rodents, unmet repairs, and rude treatment by management and other staff. Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins is organizing a Code Enforcement Blitz, top to bottom for the entire complex. She along with two others on the Council spoke openly about rescinding the property tax abatement. "We'll sell it to someone else", said Chaneyfield-Jenkins. They have a Tenants Association there, and we look forwards to working together.
May 17, 2016: Last night the Township of Bloomfield became the second municipality in the history of the United States to restore rent control after having abolished it. Bloomfield went 22 years without rent control, and the rents have skyrocketed. To be honest, their new ordinance is simply terrible. It's so weak that it's little better than having no rent control at all. There are no vacancy control provisions other than producing a letter stating that the prior tenant wasn't forced out. In addition, they exempt ALL houses 5 units or less, even if there is no landlord living there. Eric Martindale attended and made a well-received speech about the positive economic impacts of rent control. We made some good contacts with tenant leaders there.
The Bloomfield Property Owners Association has a website full of the standard lies and scare tactics about rent control. The landlord's spokesperson had the nerve to blame the urban deterioration in Newark on Newark not having complete vacancy decontrol. And that lie worked well because the Bloomfield Council doesn't know that Newark has only had vacancy controls since June, 2014. (We all know the urban problems of Newark go back generations, they didn't start in 2014.) You see, that's all the landlords do everywhere is lie and twist things. www.savebloomfield.com
May 16, 2016: Power outage affects most of the North Ward and parts of the Central Ward
May 12, 2016: The 380-402 Tenants Association had it's election tonite. Newark Tenants United wishes to congratulate the outgoing Board members and officers and thank them for their accomplishments. None of the incumbants ran for re-election. They were Fidelia N. Uzoukwu-Odutola, Chair, Janette Ravelo-Torres, Vice-Chair, Cietta Augusta, Treasurer, Richard Ariza, Public Relations, America Espinosa, Secretary, and Frank Augusta, Board member. This board was the 4th incarnation of the 380-402 Tenants Association, which was founded in 2007.
The 4th incarnation of the 380-402 Tenants Association Executive Board accomplished the following:
1. Re-constitution of the 380-402 Tenants Association, which had been suspended for about 1.5 years
2. Defeat of the $1.8 million Capital Improvement Surcharge (CIS) application by RapAd/Azure Waterford, LLC in early 2014
3. Drafted and lobbied for a new Rent Control Ordinance, and secured it's passage
4. Defeated, several times, proposed amendments which would have weakened the new Rent Control Ordinance
4. Worked with city officials to secure implementation and enforcement of the new Rent Control ordinance
5. Correction of reported rents to the city Rent Control Board
6. Removal of the illegal security guard booth
7. Attention to building code violations, and improvements in code compliance
8. Played a leadership role in the alliance of tenant associations which filed to intervene in the litigation between the Newark Apartment Owner's Association and the City of Newark. This filing was instrumental in deterring an unfavorable settlement between the Plaintiff and the City, and set the stage for the City to win the litigation outright.
9. Defeat of the Azure Waterford, LLC Hardship Application for a 16.85% rent increase
10. Secured State inspections (coming soon), and a greater intensity of city code enforcement inspections than would have occurred
11. Amendments to the group's Constitution and By-Laws
12. Established very strong working relationships with various city officials and departments.
13. Was instrumental in generally advancing the tenant's movement in the City of Newark.
Although they no longer serve with the organization, the most active members will remain involved with the tenants movement in Newark, and may have the opportunity to defend the interests of tenants and affordable housing in other capacities.
Today is their day in the sun. We will report soon on the new officers elected.
May 11, 2016: NJTV airs a piece on last night's Hearing, which concluded with a discussion on the tenants movement in Newark. There's been a mixed reaction, but we have to be clear. The broadcast was a win for the tenants, and here's why
1. We have been under a virtual media boycott, and we got in the news
2. The story accurately reported that the tenants won. Bottom line: we won, and that was in the news
3. The broadcast included Fidelia's argument that this is a precedent-setting case, and then reported that the case was denied. That was the perfect lead-in.
4. They included Eric's argument that the application is smoke-and-mirrors and holds back the income tax return, that is "the real juice".
5. The broadcast accurately reported that there are hundreds of violations and maintenance issues.
Now, let's be real, the media has to report both sides. In this case, the landlord lobby's air time was at least twice as long as the tenant's. The broadcast assumed the validity of the landlord's argument that they need to increase rents to make repairs. In addition, landlord attorney Derek Reed, who was not present at the hearing, somehow got air time. How did that happen? The opposition was better than us at following up with the reporter and getting more folks to provide input. AND Derek Reed was allowed to state that rent control in Newark shifts the tax burden from large buildings to homeowners, and there was no opportunity for tenants to rebut. This is pure nonsense, so let me rebut here.
The tenant's agenda relies heavily on increasing code enforcement and making landlords repair buildings. We envisions millions of dollars in additional annual revenue to the city EVERY YEAR, due to code enforcement actions and fines against landlords city-wide. And that revenue doesn't have to wait until a property re-evaluation that could happen in 10 or 20 years.
Now, at some time in the future, there WILL BE a property re-evaluation in Newark. Reed thinks rent control will depress values. Well, here's another angle: buildings and apartments that have been renovated due to code enforcement actions will assess for more than run-down buildings under the status quo of collecting rent and fixing nothing. If one wanted to ensure that as many possible multi-unit buildings re-evaluate for less in the future, the best way to do that is for Newark to stick with having only 8 code enforcement officers. That will guarantee that most of the multi-unit housing stock will become run-down. No matter how dedicated or professional they may be, 8 people can't handle code enforcement in Newark.
I am now realizing that the landlords actually have THREE incentives to defer maintenance costs, not two reasons.
1. The first is the obvious and immediate bottom-line incentive of cutting repair costs to maximize profit. Every dollar spent on repairs is a dollar less off the bottom line.
2. The second incentive is to lump all the repairs together in some way, and then try to stick it to the tenants, or even litigate against the city. Now that capital improvement surcharges are gone, they are trying to link the current wave of repairs as justifying a Hardship Increase which was actually for a prior 12-month period.
3. But the third incentive is much more insidious, and it is only now emerging. By deferring maintenance and running down the buildings, they will evaluate for less in a future property tax re-evaluation. And that will cut their property tax costs. Thanks Derek Reed, for getting us to think in this direction.
May 10, 2016: THE TENANTS WIN BIG AT TONITE'S RENT CONTROL HEARING. After considerable debate and discussion, the Rent Control Board voted unanimously 5-0 to deny the application for a 16.85% rent increase at The Addison, located at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Avenue. The denial was based on failure to secure substantial compliance, per the wording of the 2014 Newark Rent Control Ordinance. Tommy McDonald testified again tonite, and repeatedly said there is no letter of substantial compliance. Several of the inspectors were also in attendance. The re-inspection after the repairs were supposed to be complete generated 398 violations.
An applicant is expected to be in substantial compliance when the application is submitted, and if the Rent Control Board requests an inspection by Code Enforcement, the buildings should pass. Judge Garry Furnari was clear in his April 8, 2016 ruling that the expectation is that buildings should ALWAYS be in substantial compliance.
Tenants at The Addison submitted 17 letters and emails to Rent Control over the past week. These were accepted and date-stamped by Maria Hernandez, and they are officially part of the file. In the event of legal action by the applicant (which is very likely), those letters are part of the official record on this application. The letters were a key part of the Board's decision, and their presence on file could serve to deter the landlord from trying to file an appeal.
The City of Newark went above and beyond the call of duty on March 8, 2016 to give this landlord an additional 60 days to perform repairs and secure substantial compliance. They weren't even close to securing it, and now the whole process of inspections has generated violations, court appearances, and fines. So, not only did the landlord fail to win the 16.85% rent increase, they had to fix a lot of things, and the final tally will be tens of thousands of dollars in legal, accounting, and repair costs. Furthermore, fines are likely in June. And now the State inspectors are coming as well. It's hard to see any scenario in which Azure Waterford will want to keep Kettler after what happened tonite. I wonder who's dime this is on, Kettler's or Azure's.
The message from Rent Control to the landlords of Newark is crystal clear: If you are going to try for a Hardship Application in the City of Newark, you will first need to secure a letter of substantial compliance from Code Enforcement, and that will trigger the whole process of inspections, violation reports, repairs, re-inspections, and fines. So you better get your financing together and fix everything first, and then file your application. And that is so similar to what Judge Furnari said.
The landlord's attorney, Calvin Souder (who is our neighbor, right around the corner), was very upset and spoke openly about suing Newark in Superior Court over this. He feels it is unfair that his client has been penalized by having to spend so much money on repairs, and after months and months of preparation for the Hardship case, the end result is that the Rent Control Board won't even hear the application. Plus the whole process of inspections, violations, and fines has commenced, and now his client is now even deeper in the hole. He says that what has happened is against the concept of securing a rent increase in order to make repairs. Souder repeatedly stated that the Hardship Application was to secure more revenue to fix things. However the rent control ordinance says something very different --- Hardship Applications are for profit, not repairs.
In theory, this webmaster is NOT unsympathetic to the logic of Souder's argument, but the problem is that we've reviewed their accounting. After we factored out all the accounting irregularities, the Addison is not only profitable NOW, they are earning over the 9% return on investment standard in the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. Basically, the application is all about pure 100% greed.
Reporter Michael Hill of NJTV was there, at our request. Good chance something will be aired Wednesday at 6:30 and 11:00
May 10, 2016: The Addison was before Judge Grant in Municipal Court this morning for the 398 violations found to be unabated when the Newark Code Enforcement performed the re-inspection after 2 months of repairs by Kettler at The Addison, which is 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Ave. The inspection process was part of their bid to secure Substantial Compliance for a proposed 17% rent increase. Judge Grant granted them 30 days to fix the 398 violations, and then fines will be issued.
May 10, 2016: The new Director of Rent Control took over at midnight, just in time for the big Rent Control hearing today. Known to his friends as Jay-Lee, Mr. Jacques Lee was a paralegal for Housing & Economic Development before his transfer to Rent Control. My first impression is that he is honest, professional, concerned about Newark, and generally a good guy. Jay-Lee is also a tenant who lives in Newark in one of the major buildings with a tenant's association, The Pavilion. He has had zero involvement with the Tenant's movement or the local Tenants Association there, but it's still great to have a Newark tenant as the Director of Rent Control. He can be reached at email@example.com
May 6, 2016: Lawsuit filed against a senior's home in Bloomfield. It was unseasonably warm on Dec 31, 2015, and the landlord (Marzulli, a notorious slumlord) failed to turn off the heat. Two senior citizens age 77 and 82 baked in their apartment and one died after his body temperature reached 108 degrees. The litigants are blaming the combined heat/cooling system, similar to that in most large buildings in Newark.
NJ.com May 6 lawsuit on defective heating system
May 5, 2016: Changes made to the Tenants Agenda for Newark, on the right column, a bit down. Most importantly added a section for reforms to the Hardship aspect of the Rent Control Ordinance.
May 1, 2016: The allowable CPI-based rent increase for May in Newark is 6/10th of 1%, according to the chart published by Rent Control. We also know the June 1st rate, 7/10th of 1%. The figures for 2016, so far have been:
Jan - .004
Feb - .006
March - .007
April - .008
May - .006
June - .007
The lack of 4% rent increases for nearly 2 full years has had a substantial positive impact. Instead of increasing 8%, most tenants have had increases between 1% and 2%. The average savings of 6.5% is as follows:
YOUR SAVINGS AFTER TWO YEARS
MONTHLY RENT DUE TO 2014 RENT CONTROL ORD.
$800 x .065 = $52.00 x 12 months = $624
$900 x .065 = $58.50 x 12 months = $702
$1000 x .065 = $65.00 x 12 months = $780
$1100 x .065 = $71.50 x 12 months = $858
$1200 x .065 = $78.00 x 12 months = $936
$1300 x .065 = $84.50 x 12 months = $1014
$1400 x .065 = $91.00 x 12 months = $1092
$1500 x .065 = $97.50 x 12 months = $1170
$1600 x .065 = $104.00 x 12 months = $1248
$1700 x .065 = $110.50 x 12 months = $1326
$1800 x .065 = $117.00 x 12 months = $1404
$1900 x .065 = $123.50 x 12 months = $1482
$2000 x .065 = $130.00 x 12 months = $1560
$2100 x .065 = $136.50 x 12 months = $1638
$2200 x .065 = $143.00 x 12 months = $1716
$2300 x .065 = $149.50 x 12 months = $1794
Note that the savings after two rent increases under the 2014 ordinance is about double from the first year. And for each tenant's THIRD rent renewal (that will be starting July 1st), the annual savings will be even higher. If the CPI stays about where it is now, your savings will be about 50% higher than the chart above !!!! From the beginning, we said that the CUMULATIVE impact of the May, 2014 Rent Control Ordinance would be really powerful. The more years go by, the more tenants can save, and re-spend that money in our local economy. Now everyone can see it. You are saving a lot of money, so make sure you pay your dues to your local tenants association, most are charging $12 - $20 a year. Without Newark Tenants United and all of the local tenant associations, tenants wouldn't be saving all this money.
Some tenants who were thinking of moving out of Newark are ALREADY deciding to stay in Newark, to not let go of the rent controlled unit.
In addition, local merchants are already benefitting from tenants having more disposable income. For instance, this webmaster rented a storage unit, in Newark, for over $135 a month. That would not have been possible with the 4% rent increases.
April 30, 2016: On April 29, Eric Martindale emailed Mayor Ras Baraka and the city council thanking the mayor for moving Code Enforcement from Neighborhood Services to Building & Engineering. The email also set expectations for future phases of progress regarding the ramp-up of Code Enforcement, and was widely circulated among community leaders. Here it is:
"Word has reached Newark Tenants United that the city has very recently transferred Code Enforcement from Neighborhood Services to Building & Engineering. I was advised today by a senior code enforcement officer that Tommy McDonald, Acting Manager of Code Enforcement, now reports to Philip Scott.
We consider this to be a very positive move, and compatible with the desires of a great many community leaders to ramp up Code Enforcement. Severe issues found during code enforcement inspections are very often the direct concerns of Building & Engineering. Information can now readily flow better, and it's all under one Director.
Thank you for this positive move. The change is obvious and way overdue.
Code Enforcement is, and has always been, a revenue-generating department. I fully support hiring dozens of new inspectors. Why not, there's no net cost to the city. Their salaries and benefit packages are more than compensated by the fines.
In addition, I would encourage an increase in the fine structure set by the City of Newark, and meeting between Mayor Baraka and the judge to encourage an increase in the fines levied by the Court for each violation.
A plan is under development by the Newark Civic Trust for a streamlined process for concerned neighborhood organizations to submit monthly reports to city officials to document all violations in their districts. I am active with this organization.
The ramping up of Code Enforcement will generate millions more in revenue for the city, create dozens of jobs for code enforcers, and resolve the concerns of residents who deserve clean apartments, clean buildings, and clean neighborhoods for themselves and their families. A central part of the plan, at least in my mind, is to improve the self-esteem of our Youth, and create a belief in their minds that people in authority care about them and their neighborhoods, and that "the system" of education, employment, and opportunity is realistic and works for them. Only positive things will flow from there, both for our Youth and our cities. Otherwise, gangs continue to be the preferred option.
In addition, the repair work prompted by the violations and fines will generate millions of dollars in economic activity in the City of Newark. We know from the landlord's economic impact statement prepared in opposition to rent control that if "x" dollars are spent in construction and repair, "y" jobs and "z" revenues are generated for local businesses. Through code enforcement, we can have that economic activity without a greed incentive for landlords to raise rents. That reduces tenant's buying power, which further hurts the local economy.
The landlords will quickly learn that "business as usual", which is to collect rents and fix nothing, is no longer a viable business plan due to inspections, violations, and fines.
Sincerely, Eric Martindale"
April 28, 2016: Launching a page here soon for the Security Guard ordinance. Compiling information from the archives. This is in preparation for a possible push on this issue.
April 27, 2016: Property taxes will be going way up in Newark for the second straight year. This is of concern to tenants for 2 reasons (1) city officials may become less sympathetic to tenants regarding Hardship Rent increases, and (2) landlords could file tax surcharge applications against their tenants.
Note, however, that despite the increases, Newark's taxes are dramatically less than Irvington, Orange, and East Orange, three cities who's tax base relies on a much lower percentage of commercial and industrial ratables. Lots of houses in Newark, especially in the South and West Wards, pay only about $4,000 - $5,000 a year. That is incredibly low for Northern New Jersey, and it remains a big incentive for home buyers to purchase in Newark. Plus Newark clearly has a future, while those other three cities have a greater struggle ahead of them. Baraka on Newark Taxes
April 24, 2016: Want to know why nj.com (aka Star Ledger) didn't do a story about the conclusion of Newark's rent control litigation. It's because the City and the tenants won. If the landlords had won, there would have been a huge story about landlords "securing justice" and rolling back "unfair regulations that harm the economy". nj.com cares about their advertisers, which are realtors and apartment buildings, not the tenants who read nj.com and the Star Ledger. In addition, about 20 or 25 years ago, the great newspapers of America figured out that the internet would end their glory days. Many of their owners decided to diversify their portfolio by dabbling in real estate. Can't say for sure which newspaper owners own real estate, but this remains a huge obstacle for the tenants movement nationwide.
The conclusion of Newark's rent control litigation should have been NATIONAL news. Newark has the strongest rent control ordinance of any major city in America. It was upheld in Superior Court, and the response from the media was a deafening silence. Not even a blurb from a tiny local newspaper. It's like it didn't even happen.
Here's an example of a prominent Newark landlord taking out a whole page ad in nj.com to promote their building, which has actually cut back on amenities and gone bankrupt twice. Newark Tenants United still has plans to set up a tenants association in this building. Eleven80 ad 4/18/2016
April 19, 2016: Announcing that the Newark Civic Trust group, which is part of The Citizens Campaign, now has a neighborhood that wants to be part of the pilot program to ramp up Code Enforcement city-wide. Eric Martindale, a Newark Civic Trustee, made a presentation to the Fairmount Heights Neighborhood Association in the West Ward. They voted YES, unanimously, to participate. The Fairmount group is really organized and has some dynamic leaders. They are operating under the guidance of the Urban League, plus a faith-based component. Fairmount Heights is one of the most struggling and neglected neighborhoods of Newark. Additionally, the Urban League wants to facilitate more neighborhoods to work with the Newark Civic Trust. The Newark Civic Trust is gearing up to facilitate community-building city-wide, with a "no blame approach". One strong focus will be on multiple neighborhoods making mass-reporting of Code Violations on a monthly basis. The group has other goals, including an Auxiliary Newark Police force, and a code of conduct for students in the school system.
The neighborhoods of Newark need to be organized, empowered, and focussed on maximizing response from city hall on everything from potholes, broken street lights, dead shade trees, and non-working fire hydrants to property maintenance violations, vacant lots, abandoned properties, and the horrendous living conditions inside many rental units. If enough neighborhoods participate, our city leaders will have no choice but to ramp up Code Enforcement.
There needs to be a meeting of top city officials with the Newark judge that handles code violations. Everyone needs to be on the same page…. (1) that fines should be dramatically increased, at least quadrupled, (2) that the system itself needs to be streamlined and prepared for a major case load increase, (3) that many more code enforcement workers need to be hired, (4) that many neighborhoods will be submitting monthly reports of problems and violations to be addressed, and (5) that the full expectation is that Code Enforcement will be a net revenue-generating operation. The chaos that we know as Newark exists, in part, because there are only 8 code enforcement officers, and the enforcing court system is weak. Newark once had over 80 code enforcement officers. We need to really put the teeth into code enforcement. Code enforcement needs to be a pit bull, not a lap dog.
Right now, property owners don't care; they know the enforcement system is weak and understaffed, and if they happen to get a fine, that's just the cost of doing business. They'll pay the fine (maybe), and still repair little or nothing. The apathy neglect needs to end. People deserve better. Our children deserve to live in clean, safe, quiet neighborhoods. Our youth need to see that the system works, that neighborhoods can function, and that people care about them. Otherwise, gangs will continue to fill that role. This change under way is something that can only happen bottom-up, organically.
The quality of life can and will improve. Millions of dollars can and will be spent, by the private sector, to fix homes, apartments, and other buildings throughout Newark. And along the way, this economic activity will generate hundreds of jobs. We know that from the landlord's Economic Impact report submitted in 2014 in opposition to the Rent Control Ordinance. If "x" dollars are spent on construction and rehabilitation, "y" jobs are generated. The only difference is that the community leaders are not giving the landlords the greed incentive that they have openly requested. They want to increase rents 20% if they modernize apartments, and their economists have calculated how much jobs and economic growth will occur in Newark. Sorry, it's not going to happen that way. Yes, we're going to have the economic activity and jobs, but it's going to happen through Code Enforcement against them, not through their greedy business plan.
And rents need to be kept low, so that tenants have disposable income to power the consumer economy by spending it locally on things other than rent. For the most part, rent money is just sucked out of Newark. The rental apartment industry is a modern-day form of colonialism. The colonial powers of Europe sucked money out of the Third World countries, leaving them poor and destitute, while lining their own pockets with money. That's the closest analogy to landlords from New York and other States sucking money out of Newark, leaving tenants with no money to spend in Newark stores and restaurants. And on top of the social injustice, they are not even maintaining their properties. All of this chaos has got to end. The landlords think they have seen the worst of tenant activism. They are in for a rude awakening.
April 16, 2016: Reporting from the April 11 Newark Civic Trust organization. Newark still only has 8 code enforcement officers for the entire city. Newark's Superneighborhood program has dwinded to only 2 or 3 active groups. The Civic Trust has a new program that they are promoting, which could either work hand-in-hand with a Superneighborhood, or replace that initiative. It focusses on identifying problems and creating reports. They are looking for a model neighborhood, perhaps Fairmount or Lower Broadway, both of which have community organizations.
April 15, 2016: Posting April 10th article from NY Daily News, about 50,000 units returning to rent control in New York. The news isn't as good as it sounds; what's really happening is New York is getting so lax with rent control that they aren't keeping track of which units are supposed to be on rent control. Nice work, DeBlasio. April 10 NY Daily News article
April 13, 2016: Tenants at The Addison will be back in Rent Control on May 10, 2016 to fight the 16.85% rent increase. It is still unknown if the landlord will secure a determination of Substantial Compliance by then. Complicating the situation is confirmation, from a city councilman, that the landlords (Kettler/Azure) completed multiple steps in the parking tower repairs at 402 Mount Prospect WITHOUT securing inspections from the City of Newark Building Department, and passing those inspections. Critical work has been done, on a load-bearing structure, without the needed inspections. All work is halted, and the landlord has lawyers working on this. Tenant leaders maintain that this problem precludes the possibility of securing Substantial Compliance.
April 8, 2016: Newark Rent Control Ordinance upheld in State Superior Court. Observers were expecting NJ Superior Court Judge Garry Furnari to make a ruling on several motions, but instead he issued a final decision on the case of Newark Apartment Owners Association v. City of Newark. The judge ruled in favor of the City of Newark in his 60-page decision. He spoke for over an hour today in court, ripping apart every legal argument put forth by the Plaintiff, including concerns over the CPI-based rent increase, Substantial Rehabilitation (the $5,000 per room equation to get a 20% rent increase on a vacant unit), the Major New Improvement definition, and other matters. His strongest words were regarding the Substantial Compliance clause of the ordinance, which restricts a landlord from seeking any rent increase, including the annual rent increase, if the building is not in Substantial Compliance with building codes.
Today's decision was a catastrophic defeat for Derek Reed, attorney for the Newark Apartment Owner's Association. The landlord's group was hoping to use the ongoing litigation as leverage to pursuade the City of Newark to reverse course on key provisions of the Rent Control Ordinance, last updated in May, 2014. Now there is a decision, and they haven't won a single point, and the ordinance is now battle-tested with a Superior Court win.
The ruling on Substantial Compliance is specifically a win for The Addison (380 & 402 Mount Prospect). Landlords are attempting to secure a 16.85% Hardship Rent Increase. A setback on the matter of Substantial Compliance would have removed an obstacle currently facing the landlord.
April 5, 2016: Newark Tenants United has received an email blast from a concerned tenant to inform concerned parties that the New Jersey Superior Court will be hearing oral argument in the Newark Apartment Owners Association v. City of Newark lawsuit on Friday, April 8, at 10:30 am. This is the lawsuit filed by the landlords against the 2014 Newark Rent Control Ordinance.
Reportedly, Judge Furnari will be considering all pending motions currently before the court, including:
1. The tenant groups' motion to intervene.
2. The landlords motion to:
a) Add the Rent Control Board as a defendant
b) Amend the original complaint
The hearing will be in courtroom 211 in the Historic Courthouse at 50 West Market St., Newark, corner of MLK Blvd. There is a large pay parking lot across MLK Blvd, to the south.
The informant said in his email that he doesn't know if the judge will be ruling on the main action or not. The answer to that is a firm NO, he will not rule on the main action. This hearing is one step in a long legal process. Yes, it's an important step, but not the last step. Things may speed up, but there's certainly months to go, and maybe a year or more.
April 3, 2016: Reposting April 1, 2016 article from The Bergen Dispatch. He sure fits the profile of a bad landlord, just collect the rent and fix nothing. What's astounding is that he thinks his business practices have no bearing on his level of trust to serve the citizens of Teaneck as a Township Councilman. Teaneck Councilman is a Slumlord
April 1, 2016: Abandoned apartments on lower MLK Blvd to be renovated. $16.7 million sale for 249 units and 2 commercial storefronts. It is yet unknown if they will be covered under rent control njbiz: $16.7 million sale on MLK Blvd
March 27, 2016: Lidya Radin of the Occupy The Courts movement is assisting Gerard Clark, an African-American landlord who owns several properties. Clark is a victim of mortgage fraud. He wants his bank, Countrywide Mortgage, prosecuted for racketeering. Mr. Clark is seeking to get in front of a federal grand jury to pursue the matter.
Landlord Gerard Clark YouTube video – Occupy the Courts
Below is Lidya Radin of Occupy the Courts. She is explaining how citizens have the right to bring any violation of civil rights or racketeering matter directly to a federal grand jury. These rights are being denied by the legal system despite court rulings that she has cited. In addition, any right that an attorney has to pursue a legal matter is also the right of a private citizen to pursue without an attorney. Ms. Radin maintains that the information in these two video’s is much more accurate than my prior blog posts.
Lydia Radin YouTube video – Occupy the Courts
Ms. Radin says that she intends to prosecute Newark Rent Control Board Attorney Victor Afanador. She claims that he struck and damaged her video equipment and tried to deny her right to film the March 8, 2016 Newark Rent Control Board meeting. Also in her sights is Tommy McDonald of Newark Code Enforcement. Ms. Radin will be closely following the Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Ave, and looking to see if any additional wrong-doing occurs.
March 24, 2016: Today's article cites that rail improvements in Essex and Morris County a number of years ago that created a direct one-stop ride to NYC caused the average house within ½ mile of local train stations to increase $34,000 in value. Presumably much higher within 2 blocks. The article didn't mention the impact to rents, but we all know it was gigantic. This is more reason for Rent Control, so there is no conflict between economic development and keeping housing affordable. March 24, 2016 article
March 22, 2016: Newark Tenants United supports efforts in Bloomfield to adopt a rent control ordinance and set up a rent control board. Bloomfield had rent control decades ago, but abolished it. Now it's coming back.
March 21, 2016: Lidya Radin claims that the March 18th post, below, is not accurate. She cites a case in 1985 in which an attorney (not a private citizen acting as an attorney) was successful in convening a federal grand jury, in some other State. I have challenged her to provide a precedent case in which an actual PRIVATE CITIZEN has successfully convened a federal grand jury. This would be excellent news, especially if it happened within the last 10 years, and preferably in NY or NJ. Will post any such information if it is provided.
Ms. Radin has worked hard to support tenant's rights as well as the civil right to a federal grand jury. She speaks of tremendous gains that civil rights groups such as the Black Lives Matter movement could secure if they were successful in convening a federal grand jury to investigate multiple reports of excessive force by police. Groups in New Jersey pushing these issues, most notably the People's Organization for Progress, have been unsuccessful in getting the support of Attorney General Paul Fishman to investigate abuses by police. This is a civil rights matter. There are 5 police shooting cases that POP is pursuing in New Jersey, which have barely secured media coverage. The POP group is protesting weekly on Broad Street in front of the federal courthouse. POP is the voice of the Black Lives Matter movement in NJ. If the Black Lives Matter movement, either personally or through an attorney, can bypass Fishman and take their case directly to a federal grand jury, that process itself would be national news. Ms. Radin is encouraged to continue to pursue all of these matters, and find a way to make it happen.
March 18, 2016: Reporting that citizens DO NOT have access to a Federal Grand Jury, as described by activist and film producer Lidya Radin. I accompanied Ms. Radin today to the federal Courthouse in Newark, and we were told firmly by U.S. Deputy Marshall Gerald Sanseverino that there is no mechanism for a private citizen to contact the Federal Grand Jury and request an investigation. Her request in a sealed envelope will not be delivered to the Federal Grand Jury, but will instead be kept in a file they have on her.
In 1992, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a majority opinion in US v. Williams, in which he explained, among other things, the public's civil right to the Grand Jury Process. Despite a Supreme Court ruling, it's not being implemented. The best analogy I can make is what happened after Newark revised the Rent Control Ordinance. The law was on the books and completely ignored by landlords and Rent Control for months, until Mayor Ras Baraka laid down the law.
There is a core of right-wing "tea party" and "constitutional" activists in New Jersey and other States that is approaching federal courthouses all over America, looking to find someone who can successfully navigate the process and secure the civil rights outlined by Judge Scalia. They are trying to get a case in front of a Federal Grand Jury without going through the US Attorney's office or the District Clerk's office. So far, it hasn't happened. Ironically, the greatest beneficiaries of these new civil rights will be minorities and the poor in America's cities, and especially the Black Lives Matter movement. At the current time, these civil rights are not secured, and the process is completely blocked. This could change if a Presidential candidate supporting this movement wins in November. Unsure of the candidate's positions, but the idea of private citizens directly petitioning a Federal Grand Jury is very much a right-wing cause. Perhaps there should be a broader base to this movement to open up the Federal Grand Juries.
March 16, 2016: Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United spoke at tonite's Hearing of Citizens, and addressed several matters regarding the 17% Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect: Eric speech March 16, 2016
1. Explained to the city council that tenants have not rallied at city council meetings or sent tons of emails to protest the proposed 17% rent increase because there is a great Rent Control Ordinance on the books that protect us, therefore the city council is not subject to any kind of community organizing
2. Updated the city council on the status of the application, that it was not heard on March 8th, that inspections were ordered, and the landlord has 60 days to fix violations, and to come into substantial compliance
3. Described that an attempt was made to violate our civil rights, by preventing the filming of the Hearing. Advised that Lydia Radin accused Victor Afanador of striking and damaging her camera equipment. Eric asked that Afanador be recused from this Hardship Application when it continues. Councilwoman Mildred Crump stated that they will look into it and consider the suggestion. Councilman Ramos objected to the criticisms of Mr. Afanador. I wonder if Ramos was involved in securing the position for Afanador ?
4. Expressed concern over the ability of Code Enforcement to be fair to tenants in calculating a Substantial Compliance determination.
Earlier today, Lydia Radin visited the offices of Mayor Ras Baraka and Business Administrator Jack Kelly to discuss her interactions with Victor Afanador on March 8th. She was successful in meeting with both of them for several minutes each.
March 15, 2016: At the Wednesday evening city council meeting, Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United will be updating the Newark City Council on the status of the Hardship Application, and noting a few issues that have arisen. This will be a passive and informative presentation. It's been 5 months since any of the tenant leaders have spoken at a Hearing of Citizens.
March 13, 2016: Article on Where Young College Graduates Choose to Live. A strong case is made that an influx of recent college graduates advances the improvement of depressed urban areas, and results in job creation for the whole city. God knows we need JOBS in Newark. How can Newark have this progress without causing an escalation of rents that harms working folks already maxed out on housing costs? The answer is rent control. Newark has the best and strongest rent control ordinance of any major city in the United States. Our city officials need to be proud of it and talk about it much more. Rent control is actually something that could be used to attract recent college graduates to move here, or to stay here.
Newark's ordinance is arguably better than NYC's, which has ridiculous vacancy decontrol provisions that become permanent once the cumulative sum of small annual rent increases hits a particular threshold. Tens of thousands of units in NYC are breaking free of rent control, and this is severely hurting the entire metro area.
March 13, 2016: Case Law on video-recording police officers and public officials. It talks about Fordyce v. Seattle, which was specifically referred to at the March 8, 2016 hearing, as well as other case law specific to NJ that we didn't know about. The link is also being stored on the right column in "Resources to Help NJ Tenants" Digitalmedialaw
March 12, 2016: Kevin Lindahl of the Bloomfield Tenants Association wrote us the other day: "Bloomfield New Jersey is about to become one of a handful of towns in the United States, to ever restore rent control after having lost it. The first reading will be March 21st at 7pm in town hall. We are very excited and would love to see you at this historic event. The final reading will be April 18th. :) If anyone would like to meet with me, please don't hesitate to email me. Thank you fellow tenants!" We are interested in reviewing their ordinance, since Newark is way ahead on the learning curve regarding any potential problems with how it might be worded.
March 11, 2016: The March 10th post is incorrect. Independent film producer Lidya Radin is NOT done with Victor Afanador. She has serious concerns over his demeanor and professional conduct. There's more to say, but I'm keeping quiet on it for now. Meanwhile, tenant leaders are not done with Tommy McDonald either. Nobody is thanking him. Instead there's widespread contempt for McDonald. Stay tuned, more will happen.
Posting from the NY TImes on March 8, 2016 The Eviction Economy. It hits on lots of good points, but this is still the NY Times, so there was no mention of rent control. The print media prides itself on not having "sacred cows", but they do. And this one is "though shalt not cross the financial interests of your advertisers". The real estate industry pays for advertising in newspapers, and they do not want stories about rent control.
As I read the article, it is dawning on me that the lack of rent control has serious ramifications for the economy, and it would be possible for conservatives to make a strong case for rent control, on a few grounds
(1) This country is spinning into catastrophic debt, now over $19 Trillion. A good chunk of that is social spending for various programs. Essentially the government is subsidizing for the lack of rent control. That's the smartest way of looking at it. Government on all levels would spend much less taxpayer money to help those in need if rents were lower. For instance, the Section 8 program subsidizes tenants in the most depressed parts of Newark at extremely high rents. The Section 8 landlords don't deserve so much money. A 3-bedroom apartment in Newark should rent for half a 3-bedroom apartment in Bloomfield, not 85%.
(2) Lack of rent control in enough cities and towns, and lack of stronger rent control creates a tremendous need for Mt. Laurel Housing. Those units are subsidized at a cost, and government is picking up part of the tab. And the Mt. Laurel program, as it has been implemented with the "builder's remedy", is an existential threat to open space preservation and farmland preservation. It creates a greed incentive to destroy the environment and farmland.
(3) Tenants are maxed out on rents, and don't have enough money to spend to power the consumer economy. This makes the whole economy sluggish.
(4) High rents and high subsidies for Section 8 are causing sale prices in the most depressed parts of Newark (and other cities) to be higher than they should be. If two-family houses in Newark sold for what they are really worth, about $50,000, huge numbers of people would buy houses, breaking the chain of poverty there and increasing the percent of owner-occupied housing stock.
March 10, 2016: Lidya Radin has clarified that any physical contact on the part of Rent Control Attorney Victor Afanador was incidental, and she won't be making an issue out of it. It was the camera itself that was hit so hard that it spun around on it's little stand. It was the closest thing in Newark to the swipe of grizzly bear. Ms. Radin is evaluating her camera to determine if all the parts are in good working order. She could be seen at the meeting for some time adjusting the camera, and trying to get it to sit right on it's stand.
As for Tommy McDonald of Code Enforcement, tenant leaders aren't done with him. Let me give an analogy. Imagine for instance, that a mugger was attempting to steal your pocketbook. Then a group of civic minded citizens comes to the rescue and surrounds him. Seeing no good way out, he gives up and says he was never trying to steal the pocketbook in the first place. Do you thank him for that. Uh….no, I don't think so. McDonald deserves no thanks at all for coming clean and clarifying the status of what Calvin Souder calls a substantial compliance letter. I've known Tommy McDonald for over 9 years. He has always been untrustworthy, and reactive instead of proactive. Any help he gives is half-hearted, but then he expects to be thanked and praised. Give him one point for consistancy. Tommy McDonald is Tommy McDonald, and he has never changed.
March 9, 2016: RESULTS OF THE HEARING >>> It was pure chaos. The 3 issues covered were a Freedom of Speech controversy over the videotaping of the meeting, the testimony of Tommy McDonald, and a decision on substantial compliance
(1) The action began as Rent Control Board Attorney Victor Afanador aggressively confronted independent producer Lidya Radin, grabbing at her camera and Ms. Radin's arm, and ordering her out of the room. It was close to counting as assault and battery. Afanador then directed a police officer to order Ms. Radin out of the room. Eric Martindale stated that she was allowed to film a Rent Control Board meeting in 2012. Afanador cited an email stating that filming would not be allowed. Radin held her ground and cited case law and Freedom of Speech philosophy while Janice Grenadier of Arlington, VA googled case law on filming public meetings. Ms. Grenadier, founder of Pro Se America, had come up to support Newark Tenants United, and to testify. She found a good case and showed it to Afanador on her iPad. Afanador and other officials then informally discussed the matter in closed session (without declaring a closed session), and they came out and said quietly and reluctantly that she will be allowed to film the event.
(2) As soon as the case was called, Tommy McDonald of Code Enforcement was sworn in and testified that the controversial letter he signed does not constitute a letter of substantial compliance for either building. Nevertheless, landlord attorney Calvin Souder repeatedly replied that it did, right to his face. The board firmly quizzed McDonald and his repeated determination was that the city has NOT declared substantial compliance. Calvin Souder wanted a limited inspection from 2015, which was initiated by tenants, to be considered THE inspection for the purposes of allowing the meeting to move forward.
(3) The Board then went into Executive Session to discuss a course of action, meaning how to proceed with an applicant that was NOT in substantial compliance. The decision, agreed to by landlord attorney Calvin Souder, was that the case would be tabled for 60 days until the city determined that the buildings are in substantial compliance. Newark Tenants United and the 380-402 Tenants Association were both upset with this outcome. We wanted the case to move forward with its proofs or lack thereof, to complete the opposition testimony so that all items of objection can be addressed by the Rent Control Board and the applicant between now and the next meeting. Newark Tenants United has tremendous objections and a long list of paperwork for the applicant to produce.
March 8, 2016: Tonight's Azure Waterford, LLC presents a Hardship Application to the Rent Control Board. This is the first such application since the 2014 revisions to the city's Rent Control Ordinance. They want a 16.85% rent increase. This is potentially a precedent-setting case for the City of Newark, and could open up a giant end-run around Rent Control the likes of which have happened in NYC and Hoboken. Tenant opposition is tremendous. The hearing will start at 6 PM in city council chambers, and is expected to go to 11 PM.
March 5, 2016: Tommy McDonald of Code Enforcement signed a letter recently declaring 380 & 402 Mount Prospect to be in substantial compliance, with respect to the upcoming epic March 8, 2016 Hardship Hearing. This is an extremely controversial and sickening move by the City of Newark. This is not the only criteria for the landlord to win, but this hurts the tenant opposition. McDonald's letter is based on what tenant leaders strongly believe to be a bogus inspection on February 2nd. Win or lose on Tuesday, this is a developing story and much more will happen.
March 1, 2016: Tenant leaders are organizing for the big hearing on March 8, 2016. A landlord is seeking to circumvent the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. They are looking for approval for a rent increase of nearly 17% for 219 units. If approved, this sets the precedent for landlords all over Newark to bypass the low annual rent increases in the 2014 Rent Control Ordinance. The 380-402 Tenants Association and Newark Tenants United both plan to make presentations.
February 19, 2016: Newark Code Enforcement does not answer their phones for an emergency tonite, a massive raw sewage flood in the parking garage of 380 Mt. Prospect. The number, 973-733-6471 is also the no-heat hotline. Nice job, Newark.
February 18, 2016: The Neighborhood Council Initiative (above link) has been substantially changed, again, but this time to reflect that The Citizens Campaign is spearheading the initiative to create Neighborhood Boards or Neighborhood Councils in Newark. Several tenant leaders are affiliated with The Citizens Campaign.
There is also movement on another link up top, the National Tenants Leader Database. To be announced...
February 15, 2016: One year later, results of the Valentine's Day vacant lot sale. 100 city-owned vacant lots were given away for $1,000 each to families who want to build a house. Looks like only 5 houses are getting built. Feb 15 Nj.com valentine's day sweetheart deal
February 14, 2016: Our right column now has a listing called News Resources and Blogs for Newark. This is for information purposes, we are not necessarily endorsing any of their content.
This morning it dropped at least as low as 0 at Newark Airport, -1 in Central Park, and -4 in downtown Newark. Wind chills are averaging -15 to -20. The No Heat Hotline for Newark is 733-6471.
February 12, 2016: NY Times article today about the gentrification of Jersey City. Evidently it's all about being within 500 feet of a major rail transit station connecting to Manhattan. The JC Waterfront is all filled up, so buyers and renters who are priced out of NYC and the JC Waterfront are taking the PATH further out to Journal Square. If Newark is eventually going to have this kind of growth, we'd better have a rock-solid rent control ordinance without loopholes big enough to drive a PATH train through them. NY Times Feb 12, 2016 Moving to Jersey City, Join the Club
February 12, 2016: NEWARK CODE ENFORCEMENT HAS NO TEETH Expressing an additional concern from the Feb 9th Rent Control Board meeting. Calvin Souder talked extensively about the need for higher rents so they would have money to make repairs in tenants apartments. Observers thought this was extremely objectionable for three reasons
(1) the application sought, a Hardship Application, is specifically for the owner to make their 9% profit, and line their pockets. It is not for them to make more money, and then fix things.
(2) the very notion that profit comes before repairs is an outrage. If they fixed things, there wouldn't be so many vacant units, existing tenants would stay, and new tenants would quickly fill vacancies. They choose to run a sloppy operation, and that's why they make less profit.
(3) They must fix things, or be hit with violations. They must be laughing at the violations from Code Enforcement, because they now know that the Courts in Newark don't follow up with serious fines. It's much cheaper to just consider the violations and the meager fines as just the cost of doing business, and they will still fix nothing. And it's not just our buildings, this is happening all over Newark. Our answer: the next front is outlined for us. There needs to be a joint meeting of tenant leaders, the mayor, the judge, and Code Enforcement. Newark has to start getting serious about code enforcement, and about using it as a money-making department. Right now, I'm about as happy as Adam Cruz, as to how things are run in Newark.
February 11, 2016: Adam Cruz, Director of Rent Control, revealed today to a tenant leader that he has resigned his post. He made comments about being unhappy with how things are run in Newark. Gee, what a surprise. This change gives some power and influence back to Maria Hernandez. Ras Baraka removed Maria Hernandez as Director of Rent Control in December 2014, but she was kept in employment at Rent Control as the senior staff member. She had served over 30 years at Director. Now we've gone through two directors in only 14 months, first Mark Smith and now Adam Cruz. It would be great if Newark selected a tenant leader as the new Director. After all, this Department is called "Rent Control", not something neutral like "Landlord and Tenant Relations".
One thing for sure, there will be an eruption of discontent and tenants protesting at city council meetings if Maria Hernandez is named either Interim Director or restored to her former post as Director. This also means that Adam Cruz will not be in charge for the March 8th Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect, and Maria will be more involved.
February 11, 2016: Latest update on the homeless issue that we have been following. Newark officials are protesting the transfer of homeless from Jersey City to Newark. Jersey City is gentrifying, and basically they just want to dump their less desirable residents into Newark. The long-term impact is to transfer the responsibility of needy folks from Hudson County taxpayers to Essex County taxpayers. Newark officials are taking the very position initially expressed by Newark Tenants United in our Dec. 30, 2015 blog entry. http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2016/02/newark_officials_question_plan_to_move_hudson_coun.html
February 10, 2016: Concern has to be raised with how strongly the Rent Control attorney was seen directing the Rent Control Board at last night's hearing. Typically attorneys of various municipal Boards only speak when asked questions by the Chair. This attorney does not follow that model.
February 9, 2016: The Hardship Case for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect was postponed until March. The attorney for the tenants, Ariadna Montero, debated with landlord attorney Calvin Souder, who refused to concede to the adjournment. The 15-day notice from the mailing of the public notice to the hearing date is simply not enough time to review the massive amount of documents. The board voted 4-0 to postpone the case. Several Board members also strongly desired a postponement, to review all the documents. The hearing will be the second Tuesday in March, which is March 8, at 6PM in city council chambers.
February 3, 2016: ECONOMICS ARE THE ROOT OF CRIME Is Rent Control part of the big answer to the problems of Newark? A fresh look shows that this might be true. The realization is setting in that the crime rate in Newark, especially murders and robbery, is a direct reflection on how much city residents are squeezed economically. For the most part, wages and income haven't increased in ten years. In 2006, the housing market tanked, and in 2008 the Recession hit. The National Recovery has been very very slow, in large part due to the impact of Obamacare on the business community. Meanwhile, costs have risen tremendously. Everything from milk, beef, and fresh vegetables to insurance and rent has gone way up. Rent is the biggest line item for just about all families. Rents went up 20% to 31.6% in market rate housing in Newark from 2007 to 2014, when Rent Control was effectively reinstated in Newark.
Rent Control has been on the books for almost 2 years in the market rate housing stock, with very low rent increases. This helps, but rents are still increasing in the subsidized/HUD units, which generate most of the crime in Newark. Market rate units generate crime at a lower rate, and owner-occupied houses and condominiums even lower.
There's an economic aspect to crime, and this is long known to sociologists. Crime, by David D. Friedman The more people and families are stressed economically, the more people turn to illegal activity and the underground economy, especially drug dealing, and the more we see domestic violence. Yesterday's headline was that 3 recent murders were all domestic violence, as if it doesn't count against Newark because it wasn't gang-related. Domestic violence murders Wrong answer, it does count against Newark. Meanwhile, a 22-year old African-American young man from The Colonnades was killed on New Street, and another man is reportedly clinging to life in the same attack.
Our city officials do focus on the murder rate, and on crime and safety as the top issue in Newark. Our issue, rent control, is relegated to the bottom of the list. But really, its all connected. The issue of rent increases, in all types of apartments, is an underlying issue to crime in Newark. The cost of living is going up, and income is not. That's a recipe for increased crime, and for urban neighborhood deterioration in those most troubled parts of Newark.
January 27, 2016: We created links at the bottom for 2015 and 2014 news, and you can download that blog history. Everything prior to 12/1/15 is deleted. The web hosts is complaining we are using too much space.
January 27, 2016: 16% RENT INCREASE BATTLE TO COMMENCE. A date of February 9, 2016 has been tentatively set for The Addison (380 & 402 Mt. Prospect) to present a Hardship Application to the Newark Rent Control Board. They are seeking an increase of 16% on all rents, and as the Chair of the 380-402 Tenants Association pointed out, the extra money won't even be used to fix everything that needs to be fixed in the units and common areas. The rent increase is specifically sought to secure the desired profit level of the corporation. It's the ultimate audacity. Basically they paid too much for the building 25 months ago, and now this gigantic international company, which owns over $800 million is real estate assets, wants the working-class and middle-class tenants of Newark to subsidize their high mortgage with a giant rent increase. If approved, this money will be sucked out of one of the poorest cities in America and into the pocket of some absurdly wealthy mega-millionaire (or billionaire) who doesn't even live in New Jersey. Azure Partners' other investments include Brandenberg Park, a 250 acre commercial development in Berlin, Germany, and dozens of residential and retail properties in the United States.
This is the first Hardship Application in Newark in so many years that nobody remembers the last one. They are claiming that the 2014 Newark Rent Control Ordinance is unfairly limiting their profit. Tenant's chance for victory on this is highly in doubt, and the battle won't be won without everyone coming to the hearing. Tenant leaders from around Newark should plan on coming. For more info: 380-402 Tenant Assoc. newsletter January 2016
January 26, 2016: The post-blizzard parking catastrophe continues as the City of Newark is unable to plow all the residential streets. Thankfully the County roads are plowed by Essex County, and they are in excellent condition. Mayor Ras Baraka is bringing in the NJ State Dept. of Transportation for snow removal assistance.
January 25, 2016: LAUNCH OF NATIONAL TENANT LEADER DATABASE. We have launched a database for all tenant associations and tenant advocacy groups in the United States. Evidently, nobody has done this before. Let folks communicate, and we'll see what happens. See above tab or click here: National Tenant Leader Database
January 24, 2016: Tenants all over Newark have their cars snowed in on the streets. The Pavilion Tenants Association has complained on Facebook that tenants are unable to comply with a city demand to remove cars off the street to allow for snow removal, and they reposted a widely circulated Jan 22, 2016 Patch.com article on snow removal. We are reposting for information purposes only, its a news article and it's public information.
The highest snow total in Newark is the official reading of 28.1" at the airport.
We're estimating 26" for the North Ward, based on proximity to an official reading of 26.5" in Kearny, and knowledge that snow totals dropped off westwards towards the Oranges. The least snow fell in the westernmost parts of Vailsburg, which we are estimating at 24.0", based on proximity to West Orange, where only 21.0 was officially recorded. The most snow in the NY/NJ metro area was 31.5" on Staten Island, which is not far from Newark Airport.
January 23, 2016: Blizzard of 2016. Video taken from an upper floor of 402 Mount Prospect Ave Blizzard of 2016 in Forest Hill
January 22, 2016 7:50 PM: Letter To My Landlord, a song by David Rovics of Portland, OR, uploaded to YouTube today. This is great, it's hysterical. Rents have doubled in Portland in 9 years.Tenant advocates accuse the Democratic political machine in Oregon of being corrupt and catering to the interests of landlords, and ignoring tenants. Sounds familiar. They have it worse, as Oregon does not allow rent control.
January 22, 2016: Interesting article on landlord-tenant relations: Musician Woodie Guthrie versus Trump's father
January 21, 2016: The allowable rent increase for February is 0.6% (6/10 of 1%), and 0.7% (7/10 of 1%) for March. The CPI is edging upwards, but it's still way below historical averages.
January 20, 2016: Congratulations to Armando Aviles, who was selected as the new Chair of the Forest Hill Towers Tenants Association this evening. Armando has excellent connections, and he strives to build a sense of community, and to maintain a positive relationship with their management. Numerically, this group is the largest tenant association in Newark, in terms of registered members. Armando Aviles replaces the founding chairperson, Ms. Rowena Rose, who has retired and moved out of New Jersey. In 2014, Newark Tenants United and the 380-402 Tenants Association worked directly with Rowena and a few other volunteers to launch their group. Her leadership and her advocacy will be missed. Forest Hill Towers Tenant Association Facebook page
There was a city council meeting tonite, the fourth this month, which is unusual. Nothing important on the docket.
January 19, 2016: Kiplinger's list of the 10 most inexpensive cities in America. Note that the AVERAGE rent for an apartment in the United States is $893 a month. I guess that's for a small 2-bedroom apartment ?? Some cities on this list offer AVERAGE rents as low as $577 a month. Why are rents so high in Newark, with the quality of life so low ? I think that part of the problem with rents in Newark is that the government SUBSIDIZES too much money, basically allowing a landlord in the worst parts of Newark to get $1200 or $1500 a month for a good-size unit. And that's creating an upwards pressure on rents city-wide.
Kiplinger's list of the 10 cheapest cities to live in
January 18, 2016: Today's big breaking news: For the first time in years, a Hardship Application has been filed in the City of Newark. Rent Control is pouring through the application, reportedly 60 boxes of documentation from Kettler Management, which seeks a rent increase for The Addison, 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Ave. It was reported to us that, if approved, tenants there will see rents increase $100 to $200 a month. These are the very same buildings that defeated a $1.2 million capital improvement application in early 2014. That battle directly led to successful campaign to revise the city's Rent Control Ordinance.
January 17, 2016: post on towing controversy removed Jan 18, 2015
January 17, 2016: A representative of the Pavilion Tenants Association advises that the last day for Kettler Management at The Pavilion will be January 29, 2015. Until very recently, the embattled property management firm managed many of the largest buildings in Newark. All of the most active tenant associations in Newark were Kettler properties, which may have been a reflection more on the law firm that the properties use than Kettler. It is interesting that the owners are all dumping Kettler, but keeping the law firm. Now it looks like The Addison (380-402 Mount Prospect), their most recently secured client, will be their only property in Newark.
January 15, 2016: The no-heat hotline is 973-733-6471. Thanks to The Pavilion Tenants Association for providing the link to this article Jan 15 Patch Landlords Must keep apartments warm
January 15, 2016: post on towing controversy removed on Jan. 18, 2016
January 14, 2016: post on towing controversy removed on Jan. 18, 2016
January 13, 2015: post on towing controversy removed on Jan. 18, 2016
January 12, 2016: At tonite's meeting of the Newark Civic Trust Organization, which is part of a statewide organization called the Citizens Campaign, State Chairman Harry Pozycki announced that they are investigating ways to have Neighborhood Improvement Boards in Newark. A heavy focus would be to work with the police and code enforcement, and facilitate continuous neighborhood-based input to all levels of city government. It was discussed and agreed that these Boards should include tenants, and not be based on land ownership. This is so close to our own Neighborhood Council Initiative that the Citizens Campaign will be evaluating our draft. I'm very happy about this. Good chance that a plan will be developed (a plan that I would call "Phase I") that incorporates many ideas, including ours. They want a pilot program to be up and running fairly quickly in Newark. I think their vision is to do this in urban centers all over New Jersey.
The Citizens Campaign is active in Perth Amboy, Trenton, and Newark. Expansion is planned for Plainfield and Jersey City, and some talk of Asbury Park.
A guest speaker from Jersey City outlined the Neighborhood Improvement Boards that were active under the reign of Mayor Cunningham, especially from 2000 to 2004. Journal Square and Jersey City Heights were among the most active neighborhoods. JC's Boards were very successful. The downfall of the program was that the Boards were appointed by Mayor Cunningham, so when Mayor Healey took over, the program was disbanded and dwindled away in order to break up what was perceived to be a rival political organization. No surprise, this was exactly the downfall of Newark's Superneighborhood program, which were widely perceived to be political outreach committees to each neighborhood for Cory Booker and his team of Councilmen. There's no question that any effort in Newark must be bottom-up, and that the Boards (or Neighborhood Councils) must not be appointed or they will be tainted politically and suffer the same political fate in the future.
January 8, 2016: Our steam roller continues !!! Matt Shapiro of NJTO says that the "Eviction for Any Cause" state legislation is dead. It will not be posted for a vote on Monday, which is the last legislative session. Evidently there is no such thing as a "late starter" at the State House. This is a major defeat for Ronald Rice, Sr., the State Senator from the West Ward of Newark who co-sponsored the State legislation. Rice has had a mixed record for years on tenant's issues, and this may have been his worst legislation ever. Rice has been around for 30 years in the State Senate, he's grown complacent, and it seems that he no longer respects his own voter base, the tenants. Ronald Rice legislative profile
January 7, 2016: An update on the "Eviction for Any Cause" State legislation co-sponsored by State Senator Ronald Rice (Sr.), of Newark. The last possible date for it to appear on the docket for a vote is Monday, January 11th, in Trenton. The Coalition of over 32 opposing organizations is hopeful that Senate President Stephen Sweeney will not post the Bill for a vote, and it will die. We could know as soon as tomorrow if it will be posted or not. The legislators who want this bad Bill will have to start from scratch, because the new 2-year legislative session starts on January 12th. Thanks in advance to the NAACP, which has been instrumental in taking a strong position with Sweeney on this very bad legislation.
January 6, 2016: Matt Shapiro of NJTO thinks that revisions to the Rent Control Ordinance are forthcoming soon. This has been an ongoing battle for a year and a half, literally since the last revisions were passed on May 20, 2014. Tenant leaders are hopeful that the oppressive revisions in the past versions that we successfully lobbied against will not be present in the upcoming version.
January 3, 2016: post on towing controversy removed on Jan. 18, 2016
January 2, 2016: Our Neighborhood Council initiative (upper right corner of this webpage) has been revised. The tragedy of Sonia Rogers losing 3 sons in 3 shootings in 4 years underscores the need for this initiative. Jan 1, 2016 Star Ledger article on Sonia Rogers If would be a shame for those young men to have died for nothing, instead let this tragedy be the impetus to move this far-reaching project forwards. Let the tenants and the neighborhoods be empowered, let the 25 neighborhoods be the basic building block of government in Newark. Let all the power in Newark be bottom-up. Ras Baraka championed these concepts, without knowing anything about the Neighborhood Council Initiative. When something is right, lots of people see it, or something very similar.
January 1, 2016: The issue from our Oct. 7, 2015 posting has been resolved in favor of the tenant at 380 Mount Prospect. She signed a lease for 16% more than the previous tenant. At the advise of Newark Tenants United, she protested to Newark Rent Control. All the excess rents have been credited back. Instead of scheduling a hearing with the Rent Control Board and mailing out a legal notice to the landlord and tenant for a hearing date, Maria Hernandez of Rent Control contacted the landlord and got them to concede. I believe Hernandez is repeatedly overstepping her duties, and this is further discussed in the Dec 22 and Dec 18 posts, see below. All she needs to do is send out the legal notices. The Defendant (landlord) will have plenty of opportunity to contact the tenant to try to resolve the matter prior to the hearing date. It is NOT Maria Hernandez' job to negotiate the matter.
What's most amazing is that Hernandez repeatedly tells tenants "I can't give you legal advise", but then she gives the landlords so much advise that they don't even need an attorney. She tells them when they should concede to a tenant. This prevents the scheduling of Rent Control Board cases, and allows no chance for important rulings that could provide evidence helping the city's position in the ongoing litigation. As a result of her repeated intervention, there is very little evidence in the form of Rent Control Board hearings, that landlords have abused the new Rent Control Ordinance.
2013 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2012 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2011 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2010 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2009 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2008 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2007 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
1/18/16 STATEMENT ON CITY TOWING POLICY
KEY DOCUMENTS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
Support Letter from 15NOWNJ - June, 2016
Summary of the Rent Control Battle - June, 2016
Top 10 Economic Reasons to Support Rent Control
Tommy McDonald controversial letter of Feb. 26, 2016
Hardship Application of January 21, 2016
Press Release of August 19, 2015
Matt Shapiro email of August 19, 2015 (comprehensive case)
RCO proposal dated August 5, 2015
RCO proposal on Legistar June 17, 2015
Law Dept. Memo of July 29, 2015
Matt Shapiro's comments on 6/17 Rent Control Ord.
Resolution of June 17, 2015
Eviction for Unjust Cause Bill
March 25, 2015 Flyer against changes to RCO
March 18, 2015 Objections to the Ramos-Chaneyfield RCO
Nov 2, 2014 Powers of the Rent Control Board
Sept 30, 2014 Econsult Report against Newark RCO
August 27, 2014 Letter of Support - La Casa De Don Pedro
Aug 28, 2014 Newark Policy Directive to implement RCO
Aug 6, 2014 City of Newark Resolution on Rent Control
May 20, 2014 Newark Rent Control Ordinance
May 20, 2014 Record of Newark City Council vote on RCO
OUR ALLIES - SUPPORTERS OF RENT CONTROL
Ironbound Community Corp
La Casa de Don Pedro
Peoples Organization for Progress
425 Mount Prospect Tenants Association
Colonnades Residents Coalition
RESOURCES TO HELP NJ TENANTS
Newark Rent Control Office Website (a treasure of information)
Newark Legistar (to see pending ordinances and much more)
Newark Lot & Block and Ownership - Newgins
Health Flooding Trash - Newgins
Newark Open Data (tremendous information)
Newark Code Enforcement Field Inspections
My Newark Software (report issues and problems to Newark)
New Jersey Tenants Organization
Rent Reconciliation Form (make your case to your landlord)
Another database on Newark Rent Control (The Colonnade's)
NJ State Legislators full contact information by NJEL
Rent Savings Calculator for the May 20, 2014 Newark RCO
NJ DOC Landlord Tenant Law
NJ Eviction Law
NJ DCA Habitability Bulletin
2012 Tenants Rights in NJ
2013 Online Voter Registration Form
NJ DBI Form to Complain About Landlord's Leasing Agent
1977 Court Ruling - 515 Associates vs. City of Newark
(see also the Tenant Resource Directory tab up top)
National Map of Rental costs
Letter to my Landlord Song by David Rovics Jan 22, 2016
Newark Civic Trust (part of The Citizens Campaign)
Tenant Protest Songs
Case Law on Videotaping Police Officers and Public Officials
Lydia Radin YouTube video – Occupy the Courts
Landlord Gerard Clark YouTube video – Occupy the Courts
NEWS RESOURCES & BLOGS FOR NEWARK
Star Ledger NJ.com Newark News
Brick City Live www.brickcitylive.com
Newark Tenants News Blog www.newarktenantsunited.org
Local Talk Newark www.localtalknews.com
The Newark Report (Eric Dawson) www.thenewarkreport.com
Essex County Politics www.essexcountypolitics.com
The Local Source www.thelocalsource.com
Glocally Newark (Derek Ware) www.glocallynewark.com
Newark USA Blog Craig Schoonmaker
Bob Braun's Ledger Bob Braun
Newark Speaks Newark Speaks
Community Justice Blog Community Justice
NJ Policy Perspective www.njpp.org
Blue New Jersey www.bluenewjersey.com
Cloaking Inequity www.cloakinginequity.com
NJ Spotlight www.njspotlight.com
INFORMATION ON THE LANDLORD LOBBY
Newark Apartment Owners Association
New Jersey Apartment Owners Association
National Apartment Association
Newark Apartment Owners Association --- Derek Reed
Ehrlich Petriello Gudin & Plaza
Bruce Gudin's Landlord-Tenant Bench Manual Order Form
NEWARK TENANTS UNITED INFORMATION
Newark Tenants United is an alliance of people and organizations which support tenant rights and Rent Control. A Steering Committee comprised of tenant leaders from three different properties was established on May 7, 2015. A plan for growth has been laid out which includes all five Wards of the City of Newark.
Newark Tenants United has a specific focus on lobbying. We are committed to taking a firm stand on the issues. Elected officials should expect to be lobbied, to feel pressured, and to know that they will lose tremendous support from the community, and thousands of votes on Election Day, if they act against the interests of tenants as defined by our organization.
Newark Tenants United sets very high standards for the elected officials of Newark. Elected officials must conduct themselves in an ethical manner at all times, refrain from destructive political and interpersonal tactics, steer clear of the corrupting influence of the landlord lobby, cringe at the thought of adding loopholes into city ordinances that undermine the protections for tenants, work cooperatively with those who seek to improve public policy, and address community leaders with respect.
We are committed to growing the tenants movement, with the firm understanding that those involved should act in a professional manner at all times. We, as an organization, are actively participating in the process of advancing positive change in the City of Newark. In addition, we are watching and documenting everything, and we are creating a lasting public record online. We can be reached at email@example.com
There appears to be a growing consciousness about economic justice matters. Three separate issues appear to be forming the nucleus of a new political consensus. Those issues are
- rent control
- $15 minimum wage
- banking reform, esp. high interest rates on credit cards, and high bank fees
What these issues have in common is the need to put more money in the pockets of working class and middle-class people, or keep it from being stripped away by predatory forces in the financial industry. As that money is spent in the general economy, it will cause tremendous economic growth in America. People and families will prosper, and social mobility will resume. Essentially, this political consensus is the polar opposite of Keynesian "trickle down" economics.
The tab up top called TENANT RESOURCE DIRECTORY advises how a tenant can solve any problem, especially unit repair and code enforcement issues. This website serves as a clearinghouse of information on how to get things done, and how to organize a tenant association in the City of Newark, NJ.
Our current major initiative is the revised Newark Rent Control Ordinance, it's enforcement, the proposed changes, and the ongoing litigation.
TENANT'S AGENDA FOR NEWARK
Disclaimer: The Tenant's Agenda for Newark was originally written by 3 tenant associations in 2011, and continues to change. Some victories have been removed, and some new issues have been added. NJTO has chosen not to suggest edits, but this document is subject to their editorial review at any time.
To reach us: firstname.lastname@example.org Issues affecting tenants are still very low on the city's priority list. Renters compromise 78% of the population of Newark, NJ, and for the most part we are all totally un-empowered and disenfranchised. The following is a summary of city-wide tenants issues:
(1) CHANGES TO RENT CONTROL ORDINANCE --- At our urging, the City of Newark passed an amended Rent Control Ordinance on May 20, 2014. The final vote was 6-1 in favor, after over 2 hours of public testimony from tenants and landlords. The ordinance went into effect on June 20, 2014, when Superior Court Judge Garry Furnari rejected a TRO restraining order filed by Forest Hill Terrace and the Newark Apartment Owners Association to block the implementation of the ordinance. Until Sept 3rd, the Newark Rent Control Office had refused to enforce one of the key provisions of the law, which is to set annual rent increases to the most recently published percentage change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for NY, northern NJ and Long Island over the past 12 months. A Policy Directive dated August 28th was issued to Maria Hernandez of Rent Control with specific instructions on how to calculate the rent increases. The Policy Directive states that it is effective June 20, 2014.
Oct 14, 2014 Star Ledger article
STATUS 5/5/2016: Superior Court Judge Garry Furnari issued rulings on June 20, 2014, November 21, 2014, and his final ruling on April 8, 2016. All three were victories for tenants and the City of Newark. Landlords sought a restraining order to prevent the ordinance from going into effort on June 20th. They lost. Landlords then sought a ruling to strike down the CPI-based rent increase on November 21th, and to have the court declare that leases written before they received the policy directive could remain at 4% or 5%. They lost. The second ruling means that landlords and the City of Newark must provide CPI-based rent increase. Tenants filed a motion to Intervene in the ongoing litigation between the City of Newark and the landlords, and it was delayed on January 25, 2015. In February and March, 2015, landlords have increased pressure to roll back 3/4 of the victories won by tenants in 2014. Attempts in June, July, and August, 2015 to amend the rent control ordinance with changes largely beneficial to the landlords were met with overwhelming tenant opposition. A second reading never occurred, and the May, 2014 ordinance remains in effect. In October 2015, the judge wanted to move the case forward because the Plaintiff's claim that the matter will be settled with new legislation is not happening. On April 8, 2016, the case was concluded with a resounding victory in favor of the City and the tenants.
(2) COMPLETE TRANSPARENCY IN CODE ENFORCEMENT VIOLATIONS --- Newark needs the type of software and database that is used in New York City. HPD online database. You can type in any NYC address and see the history of all violations as well as any open matter. It’s amazing and empowering. The City of Newark is not utilizing Code Enforcement as a revenue-generating program, and as a result, tenants are completely disenfranchised by the process, as follows.
- There is no software tracking a violation from the day it is issued through the court system. The Court system adds it's own court docket # for any violation that goes to court, which is fine, but they are not communicating the results back to Code Enforcement. It is virtually impossible to correlate a violation # to a court docket #. We’ve been told that the Courts are now reporting some information back to Code Enforcement and notes are being added on some cases, but the real answer is with the software described above.
- Tenants who secure inspections from Code Enforcement are not notified of: (a) which issues became actual violations, the Municipal Court Docket Number, the court date, judge’s name, and courtroom number, and (b) the Court decision. Collectively, this gives them the impression that "the city did nothing" or “the city doesn’t care”. This disenfranchises tenants and disaffects voters.
- Lack of information on Code Violation Court decisions makes it difficult for tenants to process Small Claims Court cases because there is no “proof”.
STATUS 5/5/2016: Bill Bishop, computer programmer for the City of Newark, has created software, but the changes needed require STATE legislation. This issue has the attention of the Newark Civic Trust organization.
(3) ALLOW JOINT APPLICATIONS FOR RENT CREDITS --- The Rent Control Board should allow tenant leaders and/or Tenant Associations to make joint applications to the Board on behalf of all tenants in a building, whether they are in attendance or not. These applications include requests for rent credits when it has been documented by Code Enforcement that central heat or central air was down for the entire building. It is absurd to make each tenant physically go to city hall to file their own case, and all the separate cases are a total waste of the Rent Control Board’s time and resources.
This is actually allowed, but former Rent Control Director Maria Hernandez simply refused to allow tenants to do it.
STATUS 11/19/2015: Any gray area on this should be included in another round of changes to the Rent Control Ordinance advanced by tenants in the lawsuit negotiations.
(4) CHANGES TO THE RENT CONTROL DEPARTMENT --- The Director of Rent Control shall be a tenant advocate. He or she shall not be a neutral person because the very intent of rent control is to control rents, which favors the tenant. He/she should also serve as an intermediary with both City and State code enforcers, compile information on landlord/tenant law and case law, give an annual report to the Mayor & Council, and have adequate knowledge of legal matters to give tenants good advice on landlord/tenant disputes. The Director of Rent Control shall also monitor the actions of Landlord-Tenant attorneys, and document any excesses. Powers of the Rent Control Board created by Eric Martindale on Nov 2, 2014. This is a blueprint, a detailed plan of action, for the Rent Control Board to take control and run the Rent Control Department as intended in the Rent Control Ordinance. (Note: The sections detailing the powers of the Rent Control Board were NOT changed in the ordinance adopted on May 20, 2014.)
STATUS 11/19/2015: Changes to the composition of the Rent Control Board have made it more tenant-friendly. Two tenant leaders now serve as "tenant representatives" on the 5-person Rent Control Board. Those tenants are Samuel August and Janise Afolo. One of the new landlord reps is a homeowner in the South Ward with no apparent connection to the big landlords. Maria Hernandez went on "administrative leave" for at least one month, effective approximately December 9, 2014. See news blog for associated entries around this time. Maria Hernandez returned in January, 2015, and now serves as a staff member for Mark Smith, new Director of Rent Control. Mark Smith has pledged to run the Department by the books. Smith was replaced by Adam Cruz in November, 2015
(5) LEASE VALIDATION COURT PROCESS --- Landlords are increasingly adding clauses to leases which are illegal and unenforceable, but their presence on the lease disenfranchises tenants who don’t know their rights. A process needs to be set up in which a tenant or a tenants association can request a judge’s review of a questionable lease. If found to be faulty, landlords would then be ordered to rescind and rewrite all the leases for the entire building, and to post a notice in a common area for tenants to see. N.J.S.A. 46:8-48, entitled Truth in Renting Act, outlaws illegal lease clauses, however the act is vague and has no teeth. Furthermore, the recourse in NJSA 46:8-48 is for each individual tenant to have a lease terminated. We're not looking to move out, that's not the answer.
STATUS 3/29/2015: NJTO has advised that the ability to secure state legislation that will protect tenants interests in this process is questionable under the current political climate.
(6) SECURITY GUARD ORDINANCE --- A new security guard ordinance, drafted by the 380-402 Tenants Association, was passed on April 1, 2009, and became active on May 15, 2009. It required, among other things, that each individual building over 100 units must have the security guard in the lobby. The ordinance was changed again, without our knowledge in 2011. The key words "in the lobby" were taken out. The 2011 ordinance increased requirements for security cameras. Tenants are upset that our sponsor in 2009, Councilman Anibal Ramos, did not notify us that our ordinance was being changed.
In addition, some individual buildings over 100 units still have daytime guards that are not employed by outside licensed security firms, or they are not complying with the armed guard provision for the overnight shift. And there are still some groups of buildings of two or more buildings (each less than 100 units, but they total over 100 units) that are in complete non-compliance, including 311 and 330 Mt. Prospect Ave. Enforcement actions are necessary.
STATUS 10/2/2015: At-Large Councilman Eddie Osborne is pursing this as Chair of the Housing Committee. The meeting of 3/25/2015 with Kettler was postponed at the request of Kettler. As of October 18, 2014, residents at 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect are now served by only 1 security guard for 16 hours a day. Changes to the ordinance were promised by Councilman Ramos and Councilwoman Chaneyfield-Jenkins, but this has not happened. City council members talked about it again in August, but still no action.
(7) SUPERINTENDENT IDENTIFICATION ORDINANCE --- The name and unit # for both the Superintendent and the Black Seal Boiler Operator must be posted in the entrance of each building so that tenants, police, and fire personnel can reach them in the event of an emergency. If it is the same person, that’s fine, but the information posted should specifically state his name, his Superintendent registration number, and his Black Seal Boiler Operator’s number. This proposed ordinance should be considered to be a matter of public safety.
STATUS 3/29/2015: This remains a concern on our agenda, but tenants have not yet decided to make this a priority effort
(8) RESTORE CODE ENFORCEMENT STAFFING LEVELS --- The 2010 Budget crisis hit disproportionally upon the staff of Code Enforcement. This budget crisis was an opportunity for city officials to shave down Code Enforcement at the request of landlords and Corey Booker. Restoring the staffing levels will allow tenants issues to be addressed. The landlord-commissioned Econsult Report documents that millions spent on building rehab investment means jobs and economic gain for Newark, and therefore the landlords need a vacancy decontrol incentive to rehab their apartment. This has led tenant leaders to counter that a strong push for Code Enforcement will yield the same results. Under the Enhanced Code Enforcement Scenario, landlords will indeed have an incentive to spend money to rehab units, but it will not be a greed incentive; the incentives will instead be to resolve violation notices, to keep tenants from moving out, and to avoid hefty fines.
STATUS 3/29/2015: Code Enforcement staff levels are up for the fiscal year 2014, and more planned for hire in 2015. The Code Enforcement office was moved back to its former location in the old fire station on Mount Prospect Ave, on the block nearest to The Colonnades. This may have been done for space considerations for planned staff expansion, but the physical location of code enforcement in city hall itself made it easier for city officials to visit on behalf of constituent complaints.
(9) REVISE HARDSHIP ASPECT OF RENT CONTROL --- The 2016 Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Ave has revealed flaws in the ordinance. Most significantly, tenants receiving the legal notice to attend a hearing are NOT told how much their rent will increase, or even the percentage of the increase. The following changes are needed, some of which could be accomplished through the Rent Control Policy & Procedures Manual
1. The mailing announcing the hearing must state the percentage of the increase and the actual dollar amount increase for each unit
2. There needs to be 30 days notice, not 15 days notice. By the time tenants meet to discuss the problem and hire an attorney, there's only a few days to the hearing, and not enough time for the attorney to prepare
3. The landlord's application must cover a full calendar year from January 1st to December 31st, not some time period from mid-year to mid-year
4. The landlord should be entitled to a 7% return, not a 9% return
5. The applicant must show their IRS tax returns for the Hardship year applied for
6. The equation itself used by the City of Newark is faulty because it increases the tenant's obligation as the landlord pays down their mortgage. This is a legal absurdity, and must be changed.
(10) PARKS --- Push for more parks and playgrounds, and the Riverfront Walkway. This is a quality of life issue.
(11) ABANDONED PROPERTIES --- Identify abandoned houses and buildings, which mar the city’s neighborhoods and detract from the Quality of Life, and work within the city administration for their demolition.
(12) ESTABLISH ELECTED NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS --- Newark could implement some version of New York City's setup of Community boards to allow for local control and direct community empowerment of every portion of the city. See http://www.nyc.gov/html/cau/html/cb/about.shtml Each Borough of NYC is segmented into "communities” with a local governing structure.
STATUS 10/2/15: This movement is evolving out of the tenant's movement. The Neighborhood Council Initiative currently has it's own page on this website. This project is intended to break free and advance independently by those advocates committed to this issue.
THESE ISSUES HAVE BEEN REMOVED FROM TENANT'S AGENDA FOR NEWARK
(6) LEGAL FEE EQUALITY --- Every lease has a boiler-plated clause that the tenant pays the landlord’s legal fees if they lose in court. However, the reverse is typically not granted, which is unusual in the field of law. If the lease has the legal fee clause, then the lease should also state that tenants would be entitled to legal fees if the tenant wins in court. Passage of such legislation was based on the basic principle of fairness and equity, and it could prompt many landlords to remove the clause from their leases in its entirely. That would help to lead society in a less-litigious direction. This was the major initiative of the NJTO in 2012 and 2013
STATUS: State Senator Brian Stack (D-Hudson Co.) introduced Senate Bill S-2018 on May 31, 2012. This legislation was advocated by the 380-402 Tenants Association, and written by the New Jersey Tenants Association. YouTube video of Eric Martindale discussing the proposed legislation (since introduced). Scroll ahead to 26:00. This legislation was passed and signed into law by Gov. Christie in January, 2014. There has been no legal challenge from the landlords.
EFFECTIVELY END TAX SURCHARGE APPLICATIONS --- The change to the Rent Control ordinance that The Pavilion and The Colonnades won in 2012 to allow appeals to the Mayor & Council of Rent Control Board decisions on these matters could be revoked. Landlords have been asking, but the city council has not adopted a new ordinance.
See YouTube Video, Eric Martindale of 380 Mt. Prospect Ave (Mt. Prospect Towers) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LwuInts4LA
See YouTube Video, Carol Bodine of 51 Clifton Ave (The Colonnade) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tm9fXF9GW00&context=C4f87b96ADvjVQa1PpcFOoLCMpGYc28ifOHVX173T7HKio-4P65fc=
STATUS 3/29/2015: Ordinance changes were passed 5/16/2012. Councilmen Darrin Sharif, Ron Rice, and Anibal Ramos secured the support of the City Council in passing an ordinance to resolve unfair issues associated with tax surcharge applications. The Rent Control Board now has the ability to say "no" and to consider tenant-related issues associated with any property. An application for a tax surcharge for the Colonnade, Pavillion, and Hallmark House was defeated in the Fall of 2011. Special thanks to Carol Bodine for her critical contribution to that tenant victory. Tax surcharge applications can be appealed to the Mayor & City Council.
TENANT'S AGENDA FOR NEW JERSEY
Newark Tenants United will be coming up with a Tenant's Agenda for New Jersey. In the meantime, we refer readers to the NJTO website. They are the group responsible for setting the Tenant's Agenda. www.njto.org
There has been talk about a Uniform Residential Lease Application so that every landlord and every tenant will be bound by the same lease terms. The lease will be in complete accordance with NJSA 46:8-48, the Truth in Renting Act. This will end all the abuses and all the nonsense with illegal lease clauses put forth by landlords. And it will practically put landlord-tenant attorneys out of business, they'll have very little work because there won't be so many gray area legal matters. In the meantime, we'll defer to our parent organization (NJTO) on all state-level matters.
OUR VISION FOR NEWARK
Disclaimer: This section was also approved by 3 tenant associations in 2011. In 2014, NJTO asked to review and provide edits, but none were made.
Although individual tenants can and do have opinions to the contrary, the majority of our supporters want Newark to become safer, more economically vibrant, and a less economically depressed in the city's downtown. We are against crime, drug problems, and gangs. There is a vision of downtown Newark becoming a thriving and diverse place, like the centers of every major city in America. Development and economic prosperity means jobs for Newark residents, and it means less families will be the victims of crime, joblessness, and seeing their family members turn to gangs and the drug culture. Economic development would strengthen the city's tax base, reduce the tax burden paid by homeowners in established neighborhoods, and add to the diversity of the existing housing stock. There should be no conflict between economic development and rent control, but that can only be achieved with a very strong rent control ordinance to protect tenants. A weak rent control ordinance means the economic development will place a burden on tenant's right to fair and reasonable rent.
It is also important to address the constant loss of wealth in Newark. Our city has a hard time retaining residents who advance themselves economically, largely because there isn't enough housing or neighborhoods in Newark that meets their needs. Therefore, people move out of Newark and take their money with them. This weakens neighborhoods. Another great reason to support new construction is that it also requires an affordable housing component, whether it it built onsite or the monies are used to invest in the city's deteriorated neighborhoods to build new quality affordable housing there. Creating new clean affordable housing is a very good thing for tenants and for Newark.
Diversity is also good, both culturally and economically. There should not be a situation where neighborhoods are effectively segregated and "reserved" for any particular ethnic or racial group. What holds true for suburban towns also holds true for the urban neighborhoods. There cannot be double-standard in which everyone should celebrate the suburbs becoming more diverse, but urban neighborhoods should remain segregated enclaves dominated by one racial or ethnic group. Everyone has the right to live everywhere, based on their preference or economic situation. What's most important in Newark and in the world is that the human condition improves and civilization advances. This involves people of all different languages, races, and religions collectively involved in the local community building process.
It is important to recognize that any positive changes in the city's downtown and vicinity could also cause a ripple-effect in the surrounding areas which, in the absence of rent control and other laws to protect the citizens, would price people out of their homes and neighborhoods. This concept is common knowledge throughout Newark. It is very important to strengthen Rent Control so that existing tenants are not negatively affected. Under the best case scenario, tenants living near an improved downtown would improve their safety, quality of life, and employment opportunities, but not suffer increased rents beyond the annual increase.
Can we trust "the system" in Newark to make this happen. Right now the answer is a firm NO, and that's a big part of the reason why this Tenants Agenda for Newark must advance. Tenants must be protected, AND the economic engine of downtown Newark must also advance. These goals are not in conflict. - Economic prosperity means jobs for Newark residents - Economic prosperity means lower taxes for the rest of Newark, - Economic prosperity means less dependency of Newark upon state funding - Economic prosperity means less crime and urban problems, and - Economic prosperity translates into greater pride in Newark, and more people staying in the city rather than moving out when they get a little money . It is possible for both to happen, for tenants to be protected AND for economic prosperity to advance in the downtown. The irony is that under the "decline scenario" tenants are being driven out of their apartments not by rising rents, but by gang and drug activity, crime, deterioration, or the buildings becoming fully abandoned and boarded up. Somehow that problem doesn't register in the world view of some other tenant leaders in Newark who are not part of our alliance.
Our founders at 380 and 402 Mt. Prospect Avenue started this effort by campaigning to prevent two of the best buildings in Newark from falling into neglect and disrepair. There is now a strong coalition of four tenant associations. Tenants who demand a high quality of life shouldn't be driven out of any building in Newark. We want stop buildings from falling into a deepening spiral of crime, poverty, neglect, and disrepair. We know these problems feed upon each other, and they worsen as concerned tenants give up and more. As problems worsen, the history of Newark is that many privately-owned apartment complexes have been abandoned and boarded up. In the last few years alone, many complexes have been lost. There are 4 problems with this.
(1) That's a total business loss for the owners.
(2) It destroys the tax base of the city. The loss of tax revenue hinders the ability of the city to provide needed social services for it's citizens,
(3) Buildings on their way down cause a much greater burden on city, county, state, federal, and non-profit resources, including police, fire, code enforcement, courts, education, and social services of all kinds. The cost to the taxpayer becomes astronomical, and
(4) Tenants who are caught in declining buildings have their lives tragically affected in so many ways: - Their quality of life is affected by code violations inside their units such as leaks, crumbling plaster walls and ceilings, mold issues, no heat, broken appliances, etc, or due to the deterioration of common areas including hallways, lobbies, elevators, etc. - They feel insecure, and they live in fear of thugs and gangs, or vicious dogs, - They or their friends, neighbors, and family members become the victims of crime, - They watch as their children or grandchildren abandon the values of their families or their faith, and they become part of the gang and street scene. Many become incarcerated, involved in troubled relationships, or wind up as a gun violence statistic. Others, especially men, become poor examples as a parent, perpetuating a cycle of troubles to the next generation, - It's generally a cultural, moral, and spiritual drain on the human condition. - Ultimately tenants are forced to move as their building becomes too unsafe and unbearable, or it becomes completely abandoned. We feel it is important for our readers to have an understanding that all four problems exist, however it is the tenant problems (explained here in #4) that we are focussed on.
There was no organization in Newark directly focussed on these tenant problems before we came onto the scene. Landlords typically don't care about these problems or are lacking in vision. They just want the rent to be paid on time, and nothing else matters. Their law firms are getting more ferocious, sometimes abusing the law and over-stepping the bounds of attorney ethics. The legislature of the State of New Jersey no longer has the committment to tenant interests that it had in the past.
We generally support social services of all kinds and we agree that creating more housing stock for the economically disadvantaged is important for Newark; it just isn't our focus. There are dozens of organizations which focus on those problems. They are doing good work, and we want them to continue what they are doing. To a large degree, all the public and private social service organizations are focussing on the results of what happens when buildings and neighborhoods decline. We want to stop it from happening in the first place. Our goals are similar, we're just attacking the problem from different ends. Ben Franklin once said: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Before our formation, there was no organization in Newark who's primary focus was on Code Enforcement, Quality of Life issues, safety issues, and the prevention of crime, especially as they pertain to tenants. Our goal is to fill this gaping void in Newark's network of activists and non-profit groups. Our focus is strongly on our QUALITY OF LIFE. We want to keep our buildings and our neighborhoods CLEAN, SAFE, and QUIET for ourselves, our neighbors, and for our children. Most of our supporters are working-class and middle-income tenants who believe that Newark has turned the corner, and stands ready to become the jewel of the Garden State.