Bayonne’s legal fight over vacancy decontrol of apartment rents is over

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 3:01 AM

By Andrew Steadman/The Jersey Journal 

In the legal battle between pro-rent control advocates and the City of Bayonne, the city administration has won.

On April 13, the pro-rent control Committee of the Petitioners withdrew its appeal of the court decision that declared invalid the petitions it submitted in December to overturn the city’s vacancy decontrol ordinance.

City officials believe the appeal was the group’s last legal avenue for overturning the vacancy decontrol ordinance that was adopted by the City Council in November.

“The ordinance is in full force and effect,” Bayonne Law Director Charles D’Amico said last week.

The new ordinance allows landlords to remove a unit from rent control restrictions if the tenant is legally evicted or willingly moves. Prior to the amending of the ordinance, the units would remain under rent control guidelines forever.

According to Kirstin Bohn of Chasan Leyner & Lamparello, the Secaucus firm representing the city in the matter, committee lawyer Howard Moskowitz submitted a consent order seeking withdrawal of the appeal, which the city accepted.

Without elaborating, Moskowitz told The Jersey Journal he will no longer be representing the committee.

Betsy Parks, a member of the Bayonne Tenants Organization, said the withdrawal of the appeal is not a statement of surrender.

“The Bayonne Tenants Organization is coordinating its next steps,” Parks said. “We fully intend to pursue the avenue of retaining rent control as it has existed for half a century in Bayonne.”

The saga of the embattled ordinance dates to November 2011, when the City Council adopted it.

The Bayonne Tenants Organization, which supports rent control in the city, formed a five-member committee and circulated a petition that would, if successful, overturn the new ordinance.

That first petition, submitted Dec. 5, 2011, was declared invalid by City Clerk Robert Sloan because it did not have each committee member’s name on each page. A court decision sided with Sloan, but gave the committee the opportunity to circulate another petition.

The second petition, this time bearing the committee members’ names on each page, was submitted on March 9.

On March 23, the city told the committee the second petition was defective because it only contained 772 valid signatures of registered Bayonne voters, 73 signatures short of the necessary 845.

The committee submitted a “curative” petition of 545 signatures on April 5. But Sloan informed the group that since this was the group’s second attempt at circulating a petition, the normal opportunity to correct problems with the petition did not apply.


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