by Earl Morgan for The Jersey Journal

April 4, 2017

Updated January 16, 2019

Jersey City Together strikes again.

Last week the clergy-based organization held a rally in Jersey City attended by hundreds of tenants who have had to put up with years of building code violations because their landlord is Trendy Management of Clifton.

The name "Trendy" may not be familiar, because it's relatively new.

It's the former River Edge Management, the same company that was hit with dozens of violations at 500 Garfield Ave. when residents trying to escape a fire found that the fire escapes were so badly deteriorated that they couldn't be used.

You can shed a name, but not the stench.

The March 29 rally also brought out Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who professed his ignorance at the scope and depth of the misery hundreds of his constituents have been suffering through for years.
"I'm at a loss for words. I really don't know what to say because I don't think anyone should have to live in that sort of situation," Fulop told the group, The Jersey Journal's Caitlin Mota reported.

The mayor vowed to see to it that Trendy's owner, Esther Kaplan is held accountable.

Kaplan, who was scheduled to attend, was a last-minute no-show (surprise, surprise) -- could she have been too afraid to face her tenants? -- but she issued a bland email response when pressed by Mota.

For those who interested in buying a bridge I have for sale, here it is:

"We're actively addressing the current specific concerns as they are brought to our attention and are committed to resolving these expeditiously," Kaplan said.

Many of the issues cited by tenants at the rally have languished for years, even decades, without remediation. Tenant Gladys Ortiz complained she's paid her rent, often months in advance, but still receives court summonses for non-payment of rent, Mota reported.

The complaints inevitably are dismissed, but she is on the hook to pay for lawyers to represent her, plus some court fees and of course, her time.

I know the building on Gifford Avenue where Ortiz lives. It was on my Jersey Journal paper route when I was in high school and one of several red brick apartment buildings that were among the most desirable addresses in that part of the city. Some of my grammar school teachers lived there.

During my 33-plus years as a reporter, first for the Hudson Dispatch and then The Jersey Journal, I wrote dozens of stories concerning apartment houses filled with building and fire code violations.

I recall knocking on the door of an apartment in what was once called the Horseshoe section of Jersey City, what you now know as the upscale Hamilton Park neighborhood. I asked a first-floor tenant if he had any problems in his apartment. "Yeah," he said, showing me that his radiator was not connected to anything.

Fulop isn't the first mayor oblivious to the day-to-day dilemmas his less affluent constituents struggle with, but he's among the new crop of City Hall denizens whose gaze seems drawn to the care and feeding of the gentry occupying previously dilapidated buildings once populated by lower-income black and Hispanic tenants that are now pricey, converted condos.

City Hall, no matter who is mayor, rarely casts a glance at the struggles working- and lower working-class constituents endure as they wish and wait for repairs to their apartments; or worry if their building is next for condo conversion.

But it's closing in on election time again and the mayor's presence at the Jersey City Together rally while, noteworthy, was predictable. However his pledge to hold Trendy's feet to the fire is laudable and will hopefully be kept.

In fact, Trendy was hit with more than 100 code violations for two of its city properties days after the rally. So let's see where it goes from here.