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HOW 17 DOUBLE-DIPPING NJ LAWMAKERS BLOCK PENSION REFORM

Part Two: What is Being Done about the Blight and Housing Problems in Gloucester City

BY BILL CLEARY

CNBNewsnet

 

Editor's Note: In our previous article we looked at the fines that can be imposed on people whoRds_news violate the Gloucester City Housing Code Chapter 25. In this article, a resident, who claims he has been harassed by the City’s Housing Office, speaks his mind. His allegations are followed by a response from Housing Officer Joe Stecklair.  Links to the previous articles on this topic appear below. PART ONE HERE

 

GLOUCESTER CITY NJ--David Paskman, who owns a property in the 800 unit block of Eight Street, writes,

 

 I read your article “Blight is Spreading in Gloucester City” and believe I have an equally important or more important topic for your website.  That is the true story behind the scenes.  That of a lazy housing department ticketing houses that are well maintained while failing to go after houses of absent landlords or those that are truly in a state of disrepair. I have included photos of my house. A house that received a $350 bill for lawn cutting only one week after it was cut by myself. A house that has been ticketed every spring for the last 15 years by a lazy housing inspections crew who comes around every spring after heavy rains looking for that one day or two before the next cutting when they can hand out a needless and unwarranted complaint to justify their positions.  

 

 

I am an engineer, specializing in the stress of structures and structural analysis.  I am very knowledgeable in safe structures and unsafe structures and the enforcement of code laws. There are properties in the same neighborhood as this house that is dangerously close to collapse and never cited. 

 

Two weeks after receiving the aforementioned bill, and while I was cutting the lawn I was approached by a man who said he worked for the township.  He told me that if I hired his lawn service he could guarantee that I would not receive any more tickets for blight!  He claimed that he not only worked for the township but also owned the lawn cutting company that profited from these building department charges and that he was responsible for the previous $350 cutting.  That sounds like the good ole form of corruption, not seen since the days of the height of corruption in Chicago.

 

Paskman said he has filed a complaint with the NJ Ethics Board for allegedly being harassed by the city Housing Office, and he intends to follow up with criminal and civil charges for harassment and trespassing by local code officials.  

 

Stecklair was asked to respond to Paskman’s complaint. 

 

He stated, 

 

Mr. Paskman’s accusation that he has been harassed and ticketed for the past 15 years is untrue. 

 

In 2007 Mr. Paskman received an Ordinance 25 vegetation ticket. He paid a fine of $33.

 

In May 2010 Mr. Paskman received a property maintenance violation for repairs to the exterior. He failed to begin his repairs and was issued a ticket. That ticket was issued in June 2010. Our office explained to Mr. Paskman in court that we are not out to fine people, but work with them to abate the violation. It was explained to Mr. Paskman that we want him to put his money into his property. A time frame was discussed for the completion of the scope of work and the court case was postponed. Mr. Paskman completed the work in October 2010. The ticket was dismissed with a $33 court cost fee.

 

On May 13, 2013, an Ordinance 25 violation notice was sent to Mr. Paskman. The letter was returned to our office on May 17, “Return to Sender-Attempted Not Known Unable to Forward”. This generally happens when a house is vacated, and in turn, we add this property to our vacant property list.  On May 28 a work request was sent to the Public Works with many others to cut the grass at that property at their earliest convenience for public health and safety. On June 17 the Public Works Department cut the grass on his property. Our office would not have initiated a work order if the mail was not returned.

 

As far as his accusation that we don’t go after absentee landlords, well that also is not true. We have revoked landlords’ license to rent the properties that have become a problem to that neighborhood. 

 

We have initiated a landlord organization group that meets to discuss any problems they might have. As a result, a nuisance tenant is not being passed from one landlord to another landlord. 

 

We have a police officer who works with our department with problem properties. This is a great asset for interdepartmental enforcement.

 

In February 2013 the city adopted a vacant property registration ordinance to help combat blight. It will also help with getting banks to foreclose on properties, and or, sell them. It will also have an effect on property owners who are “sitting” on the property, speculating and not taking care of maintaining it.

 

We are the first city, that I know of, that has placed a lien on a bank owned property that has been abandoned for costs incurred for cutting the grass and maintaining it. 

 

Our certificate of occupancy and rental registration inspections keep our old infrastructure up to code, and it makes sure that landlords are accountable for repairs. 

 

We are not issuing notices and tickets to owners of homes that are well maintained. On the contrary, we are trying to maintain property values of the residents’ home who live next to a problem property.

 

As for the person who said he worked for the city that approached Mr. Paskman. Who is he? Why did you {Mr. Paskman} not get a name? Why not call the city administrator right away? 

 

Let me be perfectly clear, Gloucester City does not employ private contractors to cut grass. If there is anyone else who had a similar experience with a person approaching them to cut their grass like Mr. Paskman please call my office, 456-7689. Or Jack Lipsett, city administrator, 456-0190.

 

If anyone has a property that they know of that has become vacant, or is a problem with your quality of life, please contact our office, 456-7689, so we can try to abate the problem. 

 

One further thought, I wish we had the resources to fix all the housing problems, unfortunately, we don’t. We do try to work with our residents to abate violations. Some take more time than others. For example, dealing with properties that are owned by a bank, and trying to get a response back from them is troublesome at the time. To the bank, we are one little city. 

 

Lastly, if your home is in need of repairs, the city has programs to help pay for those repairs if you qualify.  Call 456-7689 or stop by our office, located at 700 Somerset Street, at the railroad.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: We like to thank Mr. Stecklair for his help with compiling the information for both articles. 

 

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