Portside Towers advocates again dominate Jersey City Council meeting over rent increases


The Jersey City Council meeting was again dominated by Portside Towers protestors demanding the city stop rent gouging, which several speakers noted was all the more reason to have a right to counsel.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

“I urge Jersey City to enforce its rent control laws … The tenants demonstrated there was no timely filing. A city granting exemption to rent control would not have a lawful basis,” Hudson County Commissioner Anthony Romano said during the public portion of the meeting last night.

Portside Towers residents have been contending for weeks that the owners of the building, Residential Equity, did not file a rent control exemption despite claims to the contrary.

“I know many people in the building I live in are angry,” Alex Semeniv said, asserting that building maintenance consistently remains very poor.

“I’ve experienced many injustices around the crisis of housing in Jersey City. I almost didn’t graduate high school because of a housing crisis. How many people don’t share their stories? We need justice for these people. They feel like they’re not going to even be heard. Good hardworking people are on the streets,” declared Jayden Hernandez.

Hernandez argued that many fear retaliation from landlords and therefore are hesitant to speak up in public.

“They need RTC (right to counsel). It should be a human right. I have a landlord who posts eviction notices on the front door. That’s intimidating. Every time I find a place where the rent is good, they want to raise it,” stated John Acosta.

He further stated that having an eviction record makes it harder to find a good place to live.

Another resident, Lawrence Sneed, said only three percent of tenants are represented in court while pushing the right to counsel, as well as that Jersey City is the most expensive city in the nation for renters, citing a New York Times study.

“What did y’all do? Living conditions are getting worse luxury buildings continue to go up. The rent is too damn high,” Sneed said.

2nd District Hudson County commissioner candidate Adrian Ghainda called for rent control for all buildings as well as right to counsel.

“My rent went up this year as so many others. It should be our choice to make this our home and stay and not the choice of corporate developers,” Jake Ephros, of the North Jersey DSA (Democratic Socialists of America), said.

Ephros also said residents must cope with poisonous mold and no heat during the winter.

Portside Towers East Tenant Association President Kevin Weller claimed that experienced city employees had told them that Rent Leveling Director Pastor Shyrone Richardson has no power and would be dismissed if he acts in their favor.

In addition, their grievances haven’t and won’t be addressed, despite promises that they would be,.

“You do have the power to investigate. We’ve been trying to bring information forward to force you know who to feel enough pressure to let all of you do what is right,” Weller continued.

Suzanne DeFelice, of Portside East, said her rent went up 24 percent last year.

“We should be rent controlled. Director Richardson, please enforce rent control. This is a state of emergency,” she declared.

“Half of my income goes to just sleep in my bed at night. So many people are going through this. A few at the top are raking in money for this. We need you all to be heroes for us. The landlords are all winning.”

Shawn Peyton explicitly called on Mayor Steven Fulop to ensure that municipal rules and regulations were being enforced.

Thomas Conroy, also of Portside Towers, said Equity had previously admitted the building is under rent control and claimed he had been overcharged $14,000 over the span of 14 months.

“To Mayor Fulop, I truly regret that I voted for you. You are mayor for… what is in your best interest. You will be sure you won’t receive my vote for governor. You are not a man of your word,” exclaimed Rita Botelho.

Hudson County Executive candidate Eleana Little explained she was there in support of rent control and the right to counsel. She said it prevents homelessness.

“The only people it’s not a win for are bad actor developers,” she declared.

Primary Hudson County Commissioner candidate Ron Bautista said that he felt both Romano and Fulop were part of the problem, despite the fact that Romano had come out and spoke at the past couple council meetings.

“Where have Mayor Fulop and Commissioner Romano been for months? The city has failed to enforce its rent control laws. We’re looking to hearing how the solutions are coming along.”

Portside Towers West Tenant Association President Michele Hirsch wanted an update and an open meeting to discuss their plight.

Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh, who has been working on crafting a rent control ordinance recently, said a meeting was scheduled with Corporation Counsel Peter Baker today.

“Some of it might require state involvement. I don’t want to jump the gun and say it would be an easy lift,” he added.

The calls for Councilwoman-at-Large Amy DeGise had subsided at last night’s public session, though a couple residents still called for her to step down for her July 19th hit-and-run even after she was issued a $5,000 fine and one-year driver’s license suspension.

“At the time of the collision, Councilmember DeGise didn’t know whether she killed someone, and she drove away. The will of the people isn’t a good enough motive for her to listen. We need you to do what we elected u to do. Say that this is your breaking point,” Eytan Stern Weber said at the podium.

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  1. Housing costs and all cost have gone up. for everyone.
    If you can not afford your luxury river front apartments with all sorts of amenities then find another place to live.
    Asking a landlord after years to now accept draconian rent control rules to subsidize your lifestyle is unfair and most likely legal.

  2. Whether you think a law should be changed or not, that issue is separate from the issue of enforcement of current laws. Even if some people disagree about if a rent control law is a good law or not, laws should be enforced. Whether you are a socialist or not, letting a major selectively enforce only the laws he or she likes is a bad idea.

  3. @ Not a Socialist: some of us have been living in that building for 18yrs and believe me it wasn’t then and isn’t now a “LUXARY” building. We dealt with all kinds of issues that no one whether is a luxury building or not should have to live with. Knowing it was an old building we dealt with everything thinking they were genuinely trying to fix it because just like you we had built a life there. Our friends, church and community was there. We lived there when no one else wanted to live there. We afforded to live there while we could with roommates which made it more affordable then trying to rent on our own. Don’t go around making assumptions about peoples living situations because you don’t know how they’re living. What happened to us shouldn’t happen to anyone. How would you feel if you got double digit increases each year and then at your 18th year a 25% increase and told no negotiating because they had to lookout for their investors. That shouldn’t happen to anyone no matter where you live. This is our home and you wouldn’t want the same thing to happen to you!