Challenge to Hoboken Rent Control Initiative Gets Court Date


By Daniel Reyes/The Jersey Journal

Arguments by a group of property owners to overturn the Election Day vote that rejected their rent-control ballot initiative will be heard in Superior Court in Hudson County.

The initiative, which was voted down, 8,248-to-8,196, in November, would have exempted buildings with four or fewer units, as well as all condo units, from rent control guidelines. The group of 15 property owners, represented by attorneys Charles Gormally and Sean Smith of Brach Eichler, filed a challenge to the Nov. 6 election result in early December. The court will hear their challenge on Jan. 22.

Cheryl Fallic, a spokeswoman for the rent control advocacy group Hoboken Fair Housing Association, appeared at a hearing Friday with two motions aimed at quashing the property owners’ request to allow votes that weren’t counted in the election. Both motions were denied.

The votes which Gormally and Smith claim were wrongfully rejected include 92 absentee ballots that would be more than enough to change the outcome of the ballot initiative, which was decided by 52 votes.

“I can’t believe they denied (the two motions),” said Fallic after the hearing.

Fallic described the plaintiff’s case as “flimsy” adding that while she and her supporters were still digesting the news, an appeal of Friday’s ruling wasn’t out of the question.

Gormally understood Fallic’s concern, but felt that due to situations surrounding the election, specifically Superstorm Sandy, taking another look at votes that weren’t counted is “common sense.”

Gormally pointed out that a group of ballots postmarked before Election Day weren’t counted, even though the deadline to vote had been extended to Nov. 9 due to the storm.

He also cited hundreds of people who did not receive absentee ballots until Nov. 9 due to the storm.

“The confusion surrounding the whole process merits consideration,” said Gormally.



Bayonne City Council Refuses to Overturn Vacancy Decontrol Law: Issue Now Goes to Referendum

Bayonne council doesn’t pass rent control ordinance, officials say voters should decide

By Rafal Rogoza 


The Bayonne City Council decided not to vote on an ordinance that would reinstate rent control provisions in the city during a special hearing held this afternoon at City Hall, officials say they want the ordinance to be put up to a vote during the November general election.

Roughly 25 people attended the 4:30 p.m. hearing at the council chamber and heard eight speakers who made the case for and against the Keep Rent Control Ordinance that was introduced to the Council by rent control advocates during the August 15 council meeting.
If enacted into law the measure would overturn a vacancy decontrol ordinance passed by the Council in November.
The November law allows landlords to remove units from rent control guidelines if a tenant willingly moves or is legally evicted. Since its implementation 149 units have been permanently decontrolled out of the more than 2,600 total rent control units in the city, officials said.
Toward the end of the hour long hearing, none of the five council members who were in attendance made the motion to vote on the ordinance. The matter will now be decided by voters.
“The Bayonne Municipal Council agrees that the people should decide this important issue,” said Council President Terry Ruane during the closing of the hearing.
Ruane added that the Council took an extensive look at rent control during the November proceedings and concluded that it “leads to substandard living conditions” because landlords can’t afford to invest in their property and it unfairly distributes the tax burden among property owners.
“The rental income causes lower assessed values, unfairly shifting property tax burdens on one, two, three, and four family homes,” he said.
Douglas Wasama, president of Keep Bayonne Rent Control, the advocacy group responsible for organizing the petition drive that let to the hearing, spoke and asked the Council to pass the ordinance but to no result.
“I think they made up their minds back in November,” said Wasama after the hearing. “I’m not surprised.”
Siblings Robert Willard and Lorma Wepner, who own a 10-family brick building on West 23rd Street with two other relatives, spoke against the ordinance. They said all ten units at the property are under rent control provisions with tenants paying an average of $250 in monthly rent.
“It’s unfair for people to be paying $250 in this day and age,”said Wepner, who was pushing for a minimum rent requirement of $450 to be added to the ordinance.
“In this day and age $450 is reasonable rent,” she said, citing rising property taxes and the recently announced rate hike on water. “It would help many, many home owners.”
However, the debate among speakers was split down the middle.
Ed Gilligan, a rent control advocate who helped collect signatures of registered voters during the petition drive, said “Abolishment of rent control was never on the public agenda during the mayoral and council campaign.”
“For some it would seem that the decision to abolish rent control was a result of Tammany Hall-style meetings of our present city government,” he added.
A resident of 51st Street said “There is no way a property owner can make it”, adding “vacancy decontrol is the way to go.”
A case for the Keep Rent Control Ordinance followed from a West 34th Street supporter.
“The reason the buildings are deteriorating is because the owners are pocketing the profits,” she said. “Tenants pay for all improvements.”

Third Attempt by Tenant Advocates to Reinstate Rent Controls In Bayonne, NJ


Bayonne rent control petition is one step closer to being on November ballot


Published: Thursday, August 09, 2012, 4:48 PM
By Rafal Rogoza / The Jersey Journal 
The petition, which proposes an ordinance entitled “Keep Rent Control Ordinance,” has met the statutory requirement of a minimum of 563 valid registered voter signatures and was cleared yesterday for introduction to the city council, said Bayonne City Clerk Robert F. Sloan.


The petition is an effort to overturn an ordinance passed by the city in November 2011 allowing landlords to remove an apartment from rent control restrictions if the tenant willingly moves or is legally evicted. Prior to the change, the apartment would remain under rent control guidelines forever.
Douglas Wasama, chairman of Keep Bayonne Rent Control, a local rent control advocacy group, said if the petition initiative is successful it would remove any changes that the city council made in November.


“The purpose of this act is to establish a method to protect tenants in rent controlled apartments,” reads the proposed ordinance’s declaration of purpose, “which is deemed necessary and proper for the good government of the municipality.”


Officials at the Office of the City Clerk have verified 713 valid petition signatures out of the 911 that were submitted on July 25 by Keep Bayonne Rent Control.


Bayonne rent control advocates try for third time to overturn city’s vacancy decontrol law

Published: Sunday, July 22, 2012, 12:26 PM | By Rafal Rogoza / The Jersey Journal 


BAYONNE — Bayonne rent control advocates are hoping third time’s a charm as they mount another effort to overturn a city ordinance that allows landlords to move some units out from under rent-control protections.

“We are currently circulating petitions asking registered voters in town to agree to allow all of the people of Bayonne to make the final decision on this matter,” Douglas Wasama, chairman of Keep Bayonne Rent Control, said in a press release. “That’s the democratic way.”

The dispute began in November 2011, when the city passed a vacancy decontrol ordinance that allows landlords to remove an apartment from rent control restrictions if the tenant willingly moves or is legally evicted. Prior to the change, the units would remain under rent-control guidelines forever.

The first petition to repeal the ordinance was submitted on Dec. 5 but was declared invalid by City Clerk Robert Sloan because the petitions did not have each name of the five-member committee listed on every page of the petition. Continue reading