After residents of the Manhattan Trailer Court on Tonnelle Avenue received eviction notices last year telling them to leave by next February, the police have been contacted several times to deal with incidents of tenants fighting with management, alleged trespassing by an ex-tenant, and an incident involving a cat.
Residents said that the last notice of eviction they received had a deadline of Jan. 31, 2010.
The death two years ago of Julius Wassil, the trailer court owner, started a battle this past February.
“Most of the problems are caused by the residents complaining about residents.”— Paul Kaufman.
Some residents claim that the trailers abandoned by previous tenants have attracted homeless people and vagrants to the neighborhood looking for a place to sleep, causing problems. But the police reports filed over the last year point to bigger issues.
“Most of the problems are caused by the residents complaining about residents,” said Kaufman.
Terroristic threats, vacant trailers
In a police report from June 2008, Neive Frau and Luis Santana, managers of the trailer park, claimed that terroristic threats were allegedly made against them by one of the tenants. They said the tenant placed a cross with the letters “R.I.P.” in front of the management office and allegedly harassed them for weeks.
But this past May, that tenant, Gerald Lugo, along with tenant Roberta Reck, filed complaints against the two managers, claiming that when Lugo went to look for his cat near Tonnelle Avenue, Santana allegedly tried to kick the cat, and Frau made threatening comments.
Lugo said he had to be taken to the hospital afterward due to “heart problems.”
Kaufman said that Lugo’s criminal complaint filed against the managers was heard this past Tuesday at North Bergen’s municipal court. Kaufman and other tenants said it was thrown out.
Other police reports complain about one former tenant often wandering through the trailer park after his ex-wife kicked him out of her trailer. In April 2008, residents called police about a supposed vagrant in an abandoned trailer, but it turned out to be the aforementioned man. When police arrived and asked him to open the door, he allegedly refused, and North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue had to be called to pry the door open.
A resident told police, according to the report, that “vagrants often enter this particular trailer [and that] he advised property management of the ongoing issue, but management has yet to address it.”
According to Lt. Frank Cannella, most of the incidents at the trailer court have not been serious to date and seem to center on the same types of incidents.
Last week, resident Patricia Brunje said that she did not have any problems with management and felt that they were just trying to do their jobs.
“You go in the laundry room and it’s a mess, but how many times is [management] going to clean that up?” said Brunje. “I don’t have a problem with them; I really don’t.”
She said that management boarded up abandoned trailers and tried to keep them secure, but that “people are trying to break into them.”
Who is responsible?
Lt. Cannella said that when a property is broken into, it is the police’s responsibility to guard the area until the owner arrives on scene.
However, in some police reports management claimed that the abandoned trailers were not their responsibility.
According to Linda Hanson, the administrator director of the New Jersey Manufactured Home Association, it is the trailer court “owner’s responsibility to upkeep the property.”
Kaufman said when a trailer resident leaves his or her unit in the park, that person must give the owner of the trailer park written notice and the deed before the court has “a legal right to touch it.” He said that if this is not done, the court would have to wait up about 75 days before being allowed to dismantle it.
Hanson said part of the problem is that trailer titles are handled by the Department of Motor Vehicles, which makes ownership issues more complicated.
Rift between sides
William Eaton, the attorney for the Manhattan Trailer Court’s homeowner’s association, said that the beneficiaries of Julius Wassil entered into a $5.4 million contract with the construction company Demotrakis.
While Eaton wants to have the case transferred to Hudson County Court to fight for the tenants’ right for first refusal – a New Jersey law allows tenants the first opportunity to purchase property when it is being sold – he was unable to comment on the current progress of transferring the case.
Meanwhile, some residents feel that battling for the right to purchase the property, even if there are financial backers, will be too costly.
“Originally [Eaton] said he’d get as much money as possible for each trailer, and the next thing we know they changed the agenda of the [homeowner’s] association and that’s not what I signed up for,” said Thomas Jarkowski.
Jarkowski said that now residents who want to buy the park have begun fighting against residents who do not want to because of the legal expense. He doubts that the residents, most of them living on limited means, could afford the purchase.
“That has nothing to do with [management],” said Brunje. [They are] here to collect rent and … there are a few issues, but you know what? You have to pick your poison.”
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.