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Posted by Ricardo Kaulessar, Urban Times News on August 15, 2003 at 15:36:33:

Union Street building plagued by leaky ceilings, lack of security and other problems

Urban Times News
by Ricardo Kaulessar -

The Union Street Lofts in Jersey City opened in the summer of 2002 with residents ready to move in to a newly renovated building located a half hour away from New York City, with the convenience of bus stops at nearby Garfield and Ocean Avenues and the NJ Transit Garfield Avenue light rail station. Rents were in the $1500-$2000 range, reasonable prices for many of the incoming tenants who were priced out of other markets such as Manhattan and Hoboken. For some, it was a safer alternative than living by the Jersey City waterfront in light of the events of September 11, 2001.

But now at least six tenants have moved out the lofts since last November with more to come according to one tenant who wants to remain a resident. The tenant, name withheld for fear of retribution from the loft’s management, moved along with family members into the Union Street lofts a few months after it opened but it has been a disaster ever since.

One problem has been a leaky roof and a leaking drainpipe that has resulted in water damage to the ceilings of many apartments in the building. The unnamed tenant first noticed the leaks on a visit of the premises last fall and brought it to the attention of management, who made assurances that it would be fixed. The tenant while checking around the building realized that the Union Street Lofts complex was not finished but decided to move in because of the price and the accessibility to NYC. That visit would be an ominous sign of things to come.

Over the next couple of months, the unnamed tenant when meeting with fellow tenants began to notice a pattern of failed promises and expedient repairs. And security breakdowns as the tenants were victimized by a series of break-ins into tenants’ cars and apartments. In written testimonies from a couple of Union Street Lofts residents, there have been complaints of a “non-functional fence and no security mirrors within the building” to “a rusting drain pipe from the roof, and a damaged ceiling within my apartment.”

A recent visit by the Urban Times News found the security fence at the front of the building opened completely that another tenant said had been that way since they installed the fence and the building’s management has made only sporadic attempts at fixing the fence. Also, there was only one security camera at the entrance to the building but tenants told the UTN that it has never worked. Numerous entry points around the building are also unsecured, which has enabled intruders to not even have to worry about making a forced entry into the building.

When tenants did their own investigating regarding the break-ins this past spring as well as the Jersey City Police, found that many of the them had to have been inside jobs since most of the apartment doors were determined to be opened by keys, which only the tenants and the superintendent on the premises would have in their possession.

But there has been a silver lining, a small one in this matter. The Division of Housing Code Enforcement got involved and starts acting on various complaints.

“We did an inspection in March on the building including a couple of problems. Since some of the problems weren’t on a list of violations from our office, we had an administrative hearing with the parties involved to be able to get everyone on the same page. There were cross complaints by a tenant and the management about a lack of cooperation in terms of inspecting a particular apartment.” said Mark Redfield, Senior Code Enforcement Officer for the Housing Code Enforcement Office in an interview on Monday.

Redfield noted that he oversaw repairs on said apartment the week before, which suffered from the all-too-familiar leaky ceiling and other faults. He made sure to be there in person to see that the repairs were performed to his satisfaction. He also pointed that he will make one more inspection in the coming week and there will a court hearing on September 16th to determine if any fines will be imposed on Read Management if there are still violations outstanding.

In his twenty-years as a Housing Code officer, he has only recently started inspections on New-York style lofts but he has found that violations like the ones at the Union Street Lofts have become more frequent.

Another worry for the tenants is what they has been harassment by the lofts’ ownership, Read Management based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Stories of intimidation from the co-owners Maurice and Robert Wolf, manager Aaron Klein and their lawyer David Kessler, based in Clinton, N.J. include threats of eviction, lawsuit and raising of rents. Call put into Read Management was returned by co-owner Robert Wolf who dismissed the tenants complaints and concerns as “just some bad apples who don’t want to pay their rents” and did not want to answer any further questions.

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