Trailer park's existence extended Residents fight for their homes, or at least for compensation
by Tricia Tirella, Reporter staff writer
Aug 10, 2008 | 652 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Residents of the Manhattan Trailer Park on Tonnelle Avenue recently received an extended January 2010 eviction deadline.

According to Marion Delaire, the president of the homeowners' association, there are 87 permanent trailer homes located alongside the North Bergen Light Rail station.

The location has made the land desirable among developers, and the residents received an eviction notice last year after property owner Julius Wassil died.

The court-appointed administrator of the estate, Paul Kaufman, sent out eviction notices for June, 2009. Kaufman is responsible for half of the land, and Wassil's widow is responsible for the other half.

"My responsibility to the court and to the beneficiaries is to maximally gather the estate, convert [it] to cash, and then distribute it to the beneficiaries," said Kaufman.


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Thomas Jarkowski, a disabled Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War, said that he wasn't giving up the fight.


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But many of the trailer owners do not want to move, or are not sure where they can afford to go due to their financial situations.

"These trailers were never meant to move," said Delaire. "They were put here 35 years ago. If you move them, they would fall apart."

Delaire said 250 people may become homeless if they have to leave.

Residents were recently asked to pay $100 to join the homeowner's association to offset legal fees. Delaire said about 70 people have paid thus far, and that they plan to hold a meeting in a few weeks.

But Kaufman said that residents have not approached him about moving difficulties, and that about 20 residents already have transported their trailers to other sites.

Compensate me

When the residents of another nearby trailer park were forced to leave by NJ Transit several years ago so they could build the Light Rail, many of those residents received $100,000 or more in settlements from NJ Transit.

Resident Geraldine Dolan said last week, "I think that they should give us compensation for taking our homes away and let us get on with our lives."

Thomas Jarkowski, a disabled Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War, said that he wasn't giving up the fight for 5.2 acres of "prime real estate," but thinks he and his neighbors may be on the losing side of the battle.

Jarkowski, a retired Postal Service employee who has lived at the park for 30 years, is paying the rental fees for his trailer, along with his late mother's now empty trailer. He said that he keeps paying the rent to prevent her trailer's destruction.

According to Jarkowski, the trailers in the park are mostly permanent. He said that one of them suffered irreparable damage after it was moved six inches to accommodate the Light Rail.

"It'll snap right in the middle," Jarwoski said. "It just doesn't make any sense."

Delaire, a resident for 21 years, said that one trailer at their park was given compensation by NJ Transit when the Light Rail was built. She said this gives them precedent for similar treatment.

Wassil's estate, as a private entity, has no legal obligation to pay them, Kaufman said.

Town involved

Kaufman, who also is responsible for the management of the trailer park, said that he would be open to discussion about helping the residents move.

North Bergen Town Attorney Herb Klitzner, along with town Tenant Advocate Mike Antoniewicz, has had meetings with Kaufman on behalf of the residents.

The homeowner's association also has hired its own attorney, William Eaton. Eation has experience with trailer relocation suits and is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Housing Co Operatives.

Town officials recommended that relocation assistance be provided to residents, even though the owner isn't legally obligated.

"As the administrator of the estate, I don't have the same rights as a private developer would have as far as making these kinds of deals," Kaufman said, "so my hands are somewhat tied."

Kaufman will need the city's help if the area is to be developed residentially. Currently, the area can be developed commercially. In order for it to be a residential area, the Zoning Board would have to grant a variance.

Jarkowski said that with compensation, he wouldn't have an issue with signing.

Kaufman said, "We [extended the eviction notice] because it was the best approach out of respect to everyone who lives there and potential buyers."

Rumors

A resident for over 20 years, Jim Hayes, said that the issues of the Trailer Park are ongoing and that residents never receive direct information.

"It's a secret," said Hayes. "All we get are rumors."

Amparo Suero, who lives nearby and often walks past the park, was saddened by the news of the park's imminent demise. She said that she thought it was just a rumor.

"Where are all these people going to go?" she asked.

Comments on this story can be sent to TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.

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