Manhattan Trailer Court residents who only have a few months until their Jan. 30, 2010 eviction have once again reached out for help from Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
At the North Bergen Commissioners Meeting on Sept. 23, more than 50 of the trailer park’s residents came to speak.
More than two years ago, the death of the trailer court owner, Julius Wassil, started a battle for ownership of the land between Wassil’s widow, Lynchen Wassil, who owns half of the park, and other relatives. Court-appointed administrator Paul Kaufman was assigned to sell the property on Tonnelle Avenue and split the proceeds.
The $2,500 relocation fee is only a rumor, an official said.
The property is valuable, as it is near a new light rail stop.
Residents had heard a rumor that each will only receive $2,500 for relocation.
While residents had initially formed a homeowner’s association and hired a lawyer, William Eaton, to purchase the park, they have dropped the idea of buying it and instead are fighting for fair compensation.
When NJ Transit took ownership of a different trailer park across Tonnelle Avenue several years ago, some trailer owners received $150,000.
Evicting 250 in one day?
Homeowner’s Association President Vincent Mosca said that the residents have spent up to $20,000 or more to purchase their trailers, and spent decades living there.
“It really wouldn’t be fair to so many people,” said resident Marion Delaire. “Two hundred and fifty persons are living there and will stay living there until the day we’re evicted out of there.”
She added, “It would be a terrible thing to see 250 people evicted out of North Bergen in one day, to have sheriff’s come and evict all of them. We have no place to go. We can’t just walk out of those trailers where we’re paying reasonable rent and walk out and get another apartment at the same price.”
Developer is ‘reasonable’
North Bergen Town Administrator Christopher Pianese said he met with Demetrakis a few weeks ago. He said the developer is willing to compensate the residents for their relocation. If building on the site is delayed, they could even stay in their homes longer than expected.
Mayor Nicholas Sacco said that talks have been in the works about allowing the residents to stop paying rent eventually, so that they may save money to move.
Sacco said the developer first has to figure out how much he stands to profit before relocation figures can be finalized.
Pianese said the $2,500 relocation fee was a rumor that Demetrakis had never heard before.
“He doesn’t seem to be unreasonable,” said Sacco. “He’s talking, and that is a good sign. Leave it to us, and as soon as we know, we’ll let you know.”
Pianese said in his meetings with Demetrakis, he felt positive that he will work with the township and the residents. Pianese said that the developer has “sympathy” for those facing eviction and that he does not seem like a “cold-hearted” person.
Township Attorney Herb Klitzner also told the residents that even if a deal is not struck, as long as they continue to pay their rent after Jan. 30, the matter may be sent to tenancy court. Then, a judge then could give them a six-month delay.
Sacco asked the group if any had applied for low-income housing. One resident said he had, but that he did not meet the income requirements.
Delaire said that when the eviction notices first went out, there were 86 trailers in the park. Now there are 75.
She said that only 11 people have left voluntarily, and the other “half of those have died.”
Sacco told the residents that they should apply for housing now.
“Where would we be absorbed into North Bergen?” asked Delaire.
The mayor explained that Section 8 Rental vouchers once required residency in a specific municipality, but now those who qualify can move anywhere within the country.
Sacco and Pianese said they will continue talks about the developer’s plans for the site and for the residents’ relocation.
“We’re asking for time and the kind of compensation that’s fair to everybody,” said Delaire.