Residents of the Manhattan Trailer Court remain in limbo, unable to tell whether they will avoid eviction or be forced to move, while they wait for a court decision that might come soon or take as long as two years.
The Superior Court recently agreed to consolidate legal actions taken by both sides in the dispute, and to consider whether the sale of the property was constitutional or if it relegated the residents to second class citizen status, as their homeowner’s association attorney, Jeffery Beides, has argued.
“We had no choice.” – Paul Kaufman
Beides said the court approved a $5.5 million contract to sell the trailer park to developers. The contract is allegedly contingent on the developers getting approval from North Bergen to build 216 residential units. The project has not yet been brought before the township’s planning or zoning board, so theoretically, the sale is not complete.
Turmoil for the past year
After postponing eviction notices from the developer, tenants of the trailer court were facing a Jan. 31 eviction notice this year.
In February, after North Bergen officials stated they wanted to help the residents remain in their homes for as long as possible, the township spoke with the developers, Manhattan MTC Associates, LLC. They agreed to sit down with tenants and Beides and see what could be worked out.
“We made progress in exploring alternatives that would be acceptable to both sides and we hope that we can continue in those efforts,” said Beides recently. “The owner of the mobile home park did show concern for the welfare of the tenants and did make a sincere effort to resolve the litigation in such a way that the tenants would be taken care of by possibly providing alternative housing.”
The two sides have been unable to reach an agreement. Residents of the park have also disagreed amongst themselves whether to fight for relocation funds, or for the right to purchase the park.
Attempted to evict residents
After these talks failed to reach a compromise, Kaufman filed dispossess actions in March seeking to evict the residents in the Superior Court of Hudson County.
“We had no choice,” said Kaufman.
The homeowner’s association had previously filed a request with the Superior Court claiming that the owner of the park violated the Mobile Home Protection Act. If the court agrees a violation occurred and accepts the litigation, it could make the sale of the property null and void.
Beides asked the court to hear the evictions and their litigation at the same time, which it agreed to do. Now that the cases are consolidated, however, it could take as long as two years until a judge decides whether the alleged violation of the Mobile Home Protection Act can move forward.
The court also allowed Beides to amend the homeowner’s association complaint so that it includes consideration of the constitutionality of the sale of the property, since the anti-eviction act states that residents of a mobile park can be removed once the property is no longer used as a mobile home park.
“We allege that this makes the residents of a mobile home park second-class citizens,” said Beides.
Beides said that for now, they will have to wait and see what the courts decide.
Kaufman agreed, stating that “…we’re just going to do what we have to do.” He had no further comments on the matter.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.