CNB July 2013 ARCHIVES: What is Being Done about the Blight and Housing Problems in Gloucester City (Part One)
3 Tips to Help Prepare for Expanding to New Markets

CNBNEWS 2013 ARCHIVES: What is Being Done about the Blight and Housing Problems in Gloucester City (Part Two)

Editor's Note: In our previous article we looked at the fines that can be imposed on people who 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

Archives 2

 

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. 

 

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/ClearysNotebook

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER https://twitter.com/CNBNEWSNET

 

 

 

Comments

1
Mr Stecklair's Remarks Untrue said...

Mr. Stecklair has some serious problems with telling the truth. I have been to his office twice this spring to let him know the property was not abandoned and was being maintained. Both times I left him my personal cell phone number so he could easily reach me. Both times his office admitted to making a mistake. I still paid the $350 fine and I have still not heard from Mr. Stecklair.

In the past, I have contacted Mr. Stecklair on many occasions and tried to talk to him about the harassment. As far as returned letters go I would like to see these letters with return to sender produced because I recieved Mr. Stecklair's notices and went to his office to complain about them. Apparently, though, Mr. Stecklair is never at work.

David Paskman

 
 
2
Mr Cleary, you should be ashamed! said...

You see the comments coming back showing numerous complaints about a housing department out of control each time you run one of these articles. A housing department not working with homeowners that are trying to improve the city. A housing department that favors crony landlords that have ill maintained properties. You see a city where property values have been halved by the policies of the current administration. Where neighborhood decline has been supplemented by an overpaid under-engaged housing department. Mr Stecklair's office does not work with homeowners to abate problems. Mr. Stecklair and his office are the cancer and not the cure.

 
 
3
Politics Control said...

Joe Stecklair is a long standing member of the Democrat Club.
He favors fellow members of the Club and has been a political crony from the time he was a kid.
What he does and how he conducts himself seem normal to him because he has never been exposed to a situation where he has not had political support even when he was dead wrong.

He has proven to be arrogant, judgmental, politically biased, and believes to be above those he deals with. Thus allowing him to pick and choose to whom he will speak or to whom he will communicate via phone or email.

The Democrat Club has been running the town for decades. Joe Stecklair is one of their tools. He and the Club have gotten us where we are. Now he is trying to undo a monumental mess that is of his own doing.

 
 
4
Just asking said...

There is an announcement on the NJ Department of Personnel for a Code Enforcement Officer with the City of Gloucester. The announcement states they are looking to hire 2 people. How do you find out if these positions are already filled and this just makes them permanent or will they be hiring some new people soon?

 
 
5
post office worker said...

Because the letter was returned to the sender doesn't mean that Is gospel. The carrier that sent It back may have been mistaken or unfamiliar with the route...happens every day In all post office all across this country. Not taking sides just giving facts.

 
 
6
Mr. Cleary, Mr Stecklair, said...

May I also point out your previous article

January 07, 2010

Letters: Regarding the Snow Removal Ticket Issue

http://www.gloucestercitynews.net/clearysnotebook/2010/01/letters-regarding-the-snow-removal-ticket-issue.html

Is this also, symptomatic of a Housing Department "just trying to do a good job with a skeleton crew" or symptomatic of a problem of selective harassment by an overstaffed under-worked housing department where a staff of over 5 cannot seem to properly or fairly oversee a very very small city of barely 3 sq. miles.

 
 
7
Color of Right said in reply to Mr. Cleary, Mr Stecklair,...

It is interesting that you selected the snow removal tickets as a documentable incident. It truly is fully documentable as a reprisal effected "under the color of right".

I spoke with a person affected and that person said he would gladly join in with your suit should you go forward. He says he has two more recent and fully documentable reprisals effected under the "color of right" that Joe Stecklair chooses to wrongly use.

Let Mr. Cleary know if you wish to go forward. I can assure you that if this person joins your suit he will not back out. Some people say he has brass balls and refuses to be intimidated.

 

Comments