Jersey City hires new housing preservation director, chief municipal prosecutor

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The City of Jersey City has hired a new director to help look out for tenants and hold landlord’s accountable for their actions, as well as a new chief municipal prosecutor who says he hopes to do a lot more than just generate extra income for the city. 

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“I hope to be a chief municipal prosecutor that encourages his staff to put the best foot forward and truly keep in mind that you are the faces of the judiciary for the average citizen and I’ve talked a lot about that with the mayor and he agrees with that,” said Jake Hudnut, who will start serving as the new chief municipal prosecutor on July 2nd.

” … Too often municipal courts, in the way the New Jersey court system is structured, are focused on fee generation. While that certainly should be a component of municipal court, it shouldn’t be the only component of municipal court.”

Hudnut, who was one of a handful of officials on hand for a small press conference in the mayor’s office, succeeds Armando Molina – who will be on the July 18th city council agenda to potentially become a municipal judge.

The attorney unsuccessfully ran for the Ward E council seat in November, running on mayoral challenger Bill Matsikoudis’ ticket and frequently taking aim at Mayor Steven Fulop and his administration.

He supported eventual winner James Solomon in the December runoff election.

Meanwhile, Dinah Hendon, esq., the current executive director of the Jersey City Waterfront Project, will be joining City Hall as the director of the housing preservation division – which falls under the department of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce.

“In my work with Waterfront Project, we’ve seen a lot of violations. Now, in this position, this administration has been very interested in curing the problem just by revamping structure and the job responsibilities for the [housing] personnel,” Hendon explained.

“Inspectors to actually go out and inspect and they inspect to make sure work is actually being done. Enforcement of housing code and rent control ordinance will make a big difference in the lives of many, many Jersey Cityans.”

Hendon, who starts on July 23rd, replaces Charles O’Dea, who will continue to work in the department in a different capacity, Fulop said.

On Monday evening during a short press conference with faith-based group Jersey City Together, the mayor stated that he would be announcing the two new hires as a part of continuing an effort to improve tenant-landlord relations.

Then yesterday, Fulop explained that the new City Hall Annex, rebranded as Jackson Square, will be a one-stop shop for any residents seeking advice or information on compliance, tenant advocacy, section 8 and other other sort of housing issues.

“I think having an office, not buried in the building, but a ground floor that’s easily accessible, is going to be helpful to a lot of people. We’re a city that’s 70 percent rental, it’s important to know that,” Fulop said.

When Hudson County View asked about the concerns brought up at Monday’s press conference regarding landlord Joseph Ehrman and the dozens of LLC’s he owns, Fulop said it is a work in progress that will be resolved sooner than later.

” … Some of the slippage between the fines that the office was levying were falling within the municipal prosecutor’s office and there was an actual issue as far as the follow through on that. I think this will hopefully straighten some of it out,” the mayor explained.

Jersey City HEDC Director Marcos Vigil provided further details.

“Basically, as of this time, New Jersey Together, they have been gathering a lot of information and taking it over to the tenant-landlord staff, has been gathering the information and working with the municipal prosecutor’s staff to build up whatever the case is going to look like.”

Fulop added that it will be up to Hudnut’s discretion to determine whether or not consistent violations across several LLCs will all be viewed as one infraction or several.