Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon and Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore hosted a community meeting at 70 Greene St. to discuss ongoing issues such as faulty elevators, flooding, and other alleged code violations.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Portside Towers West Tenant Association President Michele Hirsch suggested they form a tenant association to fight for their rights collectively.
“Code violations endangered my life,” building resident Tara Smythe interjected, echoing what she’s said at recent council meetings.
“I got caught in an elevator too,” Portside Towers East Tenant Association President Kevin Weller said. He noted that Equity Residential owns both buildings.
Several at the meeting, including a disabled woman, noted that the elevators are constantly out and there’s no alternative besides taking the stairs.
“My living room got damaged. No updates from them at all,” stated Ray Singh, who said building management artificially hid damage without addressing the root cause.
He also said he had to walk through floods in the dark to get to his apartment, while a woman yelled out that she had to walk up 29 flights of stairs in one instance when the elevators were down.
“There is no auxiliary power to this building. It was built after [Hurricane] Sandy. It was really a s*** way when I went down the stairs. They said it was safe.”
Gilmore then asked what happened when they filed a complaint with building staff.
The crowd communicated that one woman from management tries to assure them issues will be addressed, but never gets into the specifics.
“They gave me a $400 fine for cursing at them. I told them they suck and they’re terrible human beings. They said I was breaking their spirit. I didn’t pay,” Smythe recalled, to which Singh noted the gym just came back after another flood incident.
Solomon asked if they had given tenants any form of credits for their misfortunes.
“For 4,700 bucks: give me an elevator,” Singh replied, with another tenant indicating he got a week’s rent back.
Singh also claimed he only received that money back after telling management he knows Mayor Steven Fulop really well, noting that building management typically acts like they’re invisible.
“The gossip is that a lot of shortcuts were taken when this building was built. It’s known in the neighborhood. You can see it,” a resident who asked not to be identified said.
Jersey City Fire Code official JP Tambini said they inspect buildings and that they would’ve investigated issues such as non-functioning lights, which typically result in a fine after two days of neglect.
“It makes our job easy. Do you have any of this correspondence in writing? For whatever reason, in this town, people forget what happens. It’s no longer your word versus their words,”Gilmore asserted.
Tambini said the building puts the onus on the problem with the company that built the elevator. He also said that only three complaints remain open out of 20 that were raised and that it was a $500 violation when they fail to comply after 30 days.
“You need to raise that,” Smythe continued.
Solomon said they could make calls to ensure issues are addressed to ensure their voices are heard.
“They don’t care. There’s some level of service we expect when we pay these astronomical prices. They know we have no recourse. 500 bucks is a joke. 10,000 bucks is a joke to them. It’s not only this building. It’s Equity in general,” Sing exclaimed.
Smythe said that despite paying luxury prices, she found a homeless person living in the building.
“Equity Residential buildings are known to be poorly managed … and death traps and they doubled their profits last year,” she added.
Jersey City Quality of Life Code Compliance Director Joseph Barra said once a complaint is issued, the building has 30 days to issue a report describing how it was fixed. If not, they can issue them a summons for $2,000.
He said they had inspected the elevators. At the time, three out of four were working.
“They stopped as soon as you left, I’m sure,” Smythe interjected, while another resident said that rents were going up by 20 percent last year before they were negotiated down to 10.
“We’re powerless,” Smythe added.
Solomon noted a resident complained glass fell out of a window and nearly damaged a car before asking to be kept in the loop.
“We want to know as soon as it happens. Tenants can withhold rent. This is just an awful business model. They can just operate as predators. There’s too much demand in the New York region. They don’t expect you to organize,” he stated.
“Landlords are cutting corners: if you leave, they increase rent even more. The mayor is taking donations from the companies that are doing it,” Hudson County Democratic Socialists of America Co-Chair Isaac Jimenez said.
He noted these are widespread problems and promoted their right-to-counsel campaign to help tenants secure lawyers to fight in court. Rather than mere eviction, they would be represented on any housing issue in court.
“The folks responsible for the housing crisis on the ones that should pay,” Jimenez declared.
Singh said they didn’t even know they could call someone to get the company fined, to which Gilmore again reiterated the value of organizing residents to enact change.
“99 Hudson is a s***show as well,” Singh added.
Gilmore’s chief of staff, Erica Walker, said the Waterfront Project could potentially help with legal recourse in this matter.