When the North Bergen Board of Commissioners first introduced an ordinance limiting local short-term rentals at their Jan. 25 meeting, they may not have realized how many people would come to the following meeting to speak out about it.
The ordinance addressed people renting out rooms or apartments in their buildings for a short time, often through websites like Airbnb. People who live on their own property are exempt from some of the provisions.
At the Feb. 8 Board of Commissioners meeting, members of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council crossed the river to thank the officials for the measure. They argued that websites such as Airbnb often skirt regulations and cost hotel workers jobs.
Nearby, Union City cracked down on rentals under 30 days last year.
The Trades Council is a union for hotel workers in New York City and North Jersey, an official with the council said before the meeting. He explained, “They rely on good hospitality jobs to make a living, to take care of their families. If sites like Airbnb are extremely widespread, especially if it's done in an improper or illegal way where it's converting residential blocks into mass hotels, then that is going to have an impact on hotel jobs.”
“Our union, which has approximately 35,000 members, has about 350 that live in the township of North Bergen,” Richard Maroko, the council's vice president, told the board before they officially voted on the ordinance. “And we've been hearing a lot of the complaints about parking and traffic, and noise, and other complaints coming out of these short-term rentals.”
“If you have less people staying in hotels, you have a lower income for the hotel workers.” --Jose Perez
After the meeting, he said, “I feel uncomfortable as a resident here. When there's short-term rentals, people are coming and going. They're not from this community. We really don't know who these people are. Parking in North Bergen is already bad as it is.”
“If you have less people staying in hotels, you have a lower income for the hotel workers,” said union member Jose Perez, 38, a North Bergen resident. And “you don't know who your neighbor is. There's a loss of community. You're staying here; next week, I'm staying here. There's no consistency. When I come home, I don't know who's next door. It's not just about working in hotels; it's about the security of knowing who's in your neighborhood.”
“My brother just brought a condominium here, and he sees people coming all over the place from Airbnb,” commented Salvador Moreta, 35. “It affects his wife, his kids, all of us around. You try to talk to them and they tell you, 'Oh, naw, I'm just renting an apartment for a couple of days.' ”
During the meeting, Mayor Nicholas Sacco mentioned numerous complaints residents gave to police, particularly from the township’s Wall Street.
One man who said he made many of those complaints, Geoffrey Santini, was elated at the passage. He lives in a set of townhouses around the street that have experienced issues from the rentals over the holidays, he said.
“It was a public safety issue,” he said after the meeting. “There were people screaming, inappropriate dresses, Lyft taxis all over the place, all night long. You wake up in the morning and you find beer bottles and cigarettes. North Bergen is supposed to be a family place.”
At one point, Santini said, he found 100 people staying in one townhouse. “There have to be over 10 police reports where I live about Airbnb. I want to thank the mayor, and commissioners, and chief of police for passing this ordinance.”
The ordinance will ban any rentals under 30 days, with exceptions added for owner-occupied properties that abide by these guidelines:
-The building has at least one off-street parking space available for every two apartment units in the building.
-No more than two documented police reports of excessive noise, disturbances of the peace, disorderly persons, or vandalism have been recorded within the previous two-year period, related to, or arising from the short-term rental of a property at the building in question.
-The unit housing the short-term rental has been registered with the North Bergen Building Department prior to rentals.
Also at the meeting, the board voted to reappoint Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Vanieri to another four-year term on the township's Zoning Board of Adjustment, where he is currently chairman.
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