'I have nowhere to go' More than 100 trailer park residents told to leave longtime homes
by Jim Hague Reporter staff writer
Nov 27, 2007 | 1326 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tom Jarkowsky is a retired and disabled Navy veteran who served in Vietnam.

For the last 30 years, Jarkovsky, who is also a retired postal employee, has resided in the Manhattan Mobile Home Park in North Bergen. He first rented his trailer, then purchased it outright.

Now, after receiving notification that he has 18 months to pack up his trailer and find another suitable location, Jarkowsky plans to put up a fight.

"I'm not going anywhere," Jarkowsky said. "They're going to have to take me out bodily. I'm going to fight it until the end. I can't go anywhere. They're going to displace 100 families. Where do they expect us to go?"

Pat Brunje is in the same boat. She is a teacher's assistant for a local Board of Education who lives on a modest income. She also received notice last month from the trailer park's owner that she has to find another location by June, 2009.

"Where am I going? I have no idea," Brunje said. "I have nowhere to go. People have established themselves here. They have lives here. Where do you start all over again? Most of these trailers can't be moved. Mine might crack in half if it's moved."

She added, "And there are no available trailer parks around. Maybe there are some available down the shore, but that's a big move. So most of us can't go anywhere else. It's an economical situation in a good location. I don't want to leave."

Nor do many of Jarkowsky and Brunje's neighbors. They're content living in the trailer park. It's their own private neighborhood, nestled off Tonnelle Avenue.

They treat their trailers like others treat million-dollar homes. Some are decorated for the Thanksgiving holiday.

But it's also a location whose price is climbing, since it's near the relatively new North Bergen Light Rail station.

It's a location that was used for two movie shoots and a commercial in recent years, but since the original owner of the property died last year, the caretaker of the estate has decided to sell the land.

The notices were sent to the trailer owners in October.

The approximately 100 or so families have to find other places to place their homes - or have them destroyed and taken apart piece by piece.

Other park bought by Transit

The residents of the Manhattan Mobile Home Park realized that something was brewing after a similar trailer park across the street was purchased by NJ Transit three years ago, using their eminent domain rights, to make way for the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station.

Since the station officially opened last year, there had been talk of converting the trailer park on the eastern side of Tonnelle into either commercial or residential development, because of its prime location.

However, NJ Transit said they are not interested in purchasing the property.

The Manhattan Mobile Home Park is located on 5.2 acres of property.

No incentive to move

While the owners of the mobile homes in the other park were paid handsomely by NJ Transit to move a few years back, the residents of the Manhattan Mobile Home Park have not received a similar offer.

"Some of them got $200,000 for their trailers," Jarkowsky said. "And these owners aren't going to give us anything? They're telling us to simply walk away. They're telling me I'm getting nothing. That's just not right. This is America."

Jarkowsky said that his mother, Julia, also owns a motor home in the same park.

"I have to worry about her now, too," he said.

The administrator for the estate, Paul Kaufman, did not return phone calls for this report.

Welder came from Cuba

Armando Rodriguez came to the United States from Cuba 25 years ago and saved the money he earned as a welder to purchase the motor home six years ago.

"I've put all the money I had into the trailer," Rodriguez said. "Now, they're telling me to go. I don't have the money to go. I get $717 a month from Social Security. Where am I going on that? My trailer has been there 50 years and I've been told it can't be moved. So what do I do?"

Jerrimiah Lampiasi has been living in the trailer park for seven years.

"They said in the letter to take the trailer out by truck or demolish it," Lampiasi said. "And they want me to demolish it. I checked into the cost of that. It's about $4,000. Right now, I haven't had any income since March. I am trying to get on food stamps."

He pointed out that it is expensive to move.

"I have nothing. I'm hoping we can stay here, but if we can't, I hope we're compensated like the others," he said. "I'm just mad that they're asking me to spend money to move it and I really have no where to go."

George Pilgrim is a handyman who has lived in his well-kept trailer since 1970, when his uncle died and left it to him in his will.

"It was brand new then," Pilgrim said. "But that was a long time ago. Where do I go now? I can go nowhere. There are no trailer parks anywhere. Asking us to just get up and get out is unfair."

By law, the trailer park owners are not entitled to any mandatory compensation. Once the trailer owners are given sufficient 18-month notice, then they're on their own.

Town sets up meeting

North Bergen officials have set up a meeting for Dec. 5 to speak with the residents about their futures.

"Mayor [Nicholas] Sacco wants to help," Brunje said. "He understands our plight."

For now, the residents have no idea what will transpire. They just know they have to leave.

"I feel like they're pulling the rug from underneath us," Lampiasi said. "They're telling us that it's just the way it goes. I don't think it's right. These are our homes."

"I don't think they should be putting us through this," Brunje said. "It's our property. We should at least be compensated."

Jarkowsky has his own theory.

"I think a big corporation has bought this land already and they just can't wait for us to get out," Jarkowsky said. "I'm sure they already have the bulldozers ready. I know a trailer court in Bayonne where the same thing happened."

He added, "I just didn't think it would happen here."

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or jhague@hudsonreporter.com
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