Despite letters to Manhattan Trailer Court residents from North Bergen Township representatives saying the developer of the property would allow them to remain in their homes for as long as possible before redevelopment, eviction notices have been sent to one third of them.
According to Manhattan Trailer Court Homeowners Association’s attorney Jeffery Beides, a response to some of the notices is due March 9 and for others on March 11. He said that around 18 eviction notices were filed on Feb. 17.
On Jan. 27, the residents spoke at the North Bergen Commissioners meeting and questioned whether the town was working with their best interests in mind. Township officials have said they have tried to work out relocation funds or an agreement with the developer, Manhattan MTC Associates LLC, that would allow the tenants to live rent-free, but that it has been difficult to get the residents together and to agree on one course of action.
“I want to accomplish this in the least painful way to the residents.” – Paul Kauffman
Mosca still hopes to be able to remain in his trailer.
Still, there may be hope of an amicable solution.
“The owner of the trailer park and their counsel are going to be meeting with representatives of the tenants and myself in an effort to see if we can amicably resolve the situation,” said Beides, who said that talks to schedule a meeting began last Monday.
‘There are a lot of issues’
Lynchen Wassil, an Englewood resident and widow of trailer court owner Julius Wassil, went to Bergen County Surrogate Court last year along with her relatives to settle the estate of her late husband.
When the court-appointed administrator of the estate, Paul Kaufman, and his attorneys went to court in June of 2009, they made a motion to get an “order declaring that the rights of the tenants have been extinguished.” The deadline for the residents to vacate ownership of their homes was for Jan. 31.
Manhattan MTC Associates has entered into a $5.5 million purchase contract with Wassil and her relatives but according to Beides the developer’s final ownership depends on their receiving approval to build 216 residential units from the township’s planning and zoning boards. Although the contract was approved by the Bergen County Surrogate Court, the project has yet to be brought before the planning or zoning board, so according to Beides the sale to Manhattan MTC Associates, which includes Bergen County developer James Demetrakis, is not complete.
Kaufmann and the township maintain the property has indeed been sold.
Beides said that he hopes that an amicable resolution can be met; otherwise he plans to continue litigating the matter. He said that the association filed a complaint to the New Jersey Supreme Court on Jan. 27, saying the landlord’s eviction proceedings have violated the Mobile Home Protection Act.
“There are a lot of issues here,” said Beides. “Tenancy is one. The right to possession is one of the issues; the other is the right of the tenants to purchase. There may be a connection in respect of those two. We feel that the tenants will not be evicted if we litigate this, but if we can resolve it in a way where both sides under the circumstances are satisfied with the agreement, then we don’t have to leave anything to a third party to decide.”
Beides said that if the eviction notices move forward, they may ask the courts to consolidate their current complaint with the pending cases and have them transferred out of the Landlord/Tenant Court. Otherwise they may try their luck in Landlord/Tenant Court.
He said that the homeowner’s association will have to make the ultimate decision on what to do. After meeting with the developer and their lawyers in the near future, the Homeowners Association board will have to decide whether a settlement or litigation would be in the best interest of the tenants.
Evictions to be postponed
Kaufmann confirmed that he had been in touch with Beides and representatives of North Bergen last Wednesday. He said that one owner of the estate is currently in Europe visiting relatives and would not be back for 10 days. When he returns he hopes that there will be an opportunity to sit down and discuss a “potential settlement.”
He said that the remaining 40 residents would still receive eviction notices.
“I want to accomplish this in the least painful way to the residents,” said Kaufmann. “The [eviction] process has to continue. However, we are not going to proceed with trials until we explore settlements and we’re hoping we’ll be able to accomplish something along those lines.”
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.