Friday, March 13, 2009

Bitter Tension in New Brunswick's City Council Meeting

By Shaun Van Moerkerken

The City Council met on Wednesday, February 18 to discuss housing and street name changes being made to the New Brunswick community. The main topics for discussion regarded an amendment the council passed that would prevent landlords from declaring multiple properties as their primary residence, and the proposed renaming of George Street to Martin Luther King Street. The meeting began at 6:30 pm and was full of uneasy citizens ready to speak their minds to the council.

The first issue is a problem not only for residents of New Brunswick, but also affects Rutgers students who rent houses. The problem is that some landlords own multiple houses in New Brunswick and claim more than one of them as their primary residence. “This will prevent the landlord from trying to claim that house as a principle place of residence in addition to another place he lives,” said Department of Economic Development Director Glenn Paterson, as quoted in The Daily Targum. When a landlord rents out a house that he has labeled one of his primary residences, they are not required to abide by the city’s rent control regulations which are there to protect the renters of the house. These rent controls regulations, which consist of how much your landlord could raise rent after a given year, how many occupants are allowed to live in the house, and more.

What’s happening now is landlords are renting out their houses labeled as primary residences to Rutgers students and putting more than the legal occupancy load in the house, a student in the audience said. The landlord then charges each student a lower price than the legal price, but since there are more people in the house the landlord makes more profit off of his investment. “I think I am a victim of one of these landlords, there are currently six people in my house, which is no bigger than a four person home. It’s pretty messed up landlords pack tenants in these houses just to make some extra cash,” said Dan Wills a Rutgers Student. With the passing of this new amendment, landlords will only be able to claim one house as their primary residence and must fill out a written application proving their residence in the home.

The second issue was more debated by the audience than by the city council. A New Brunswick citizen stood up and claimed that Martin Luther King was unworthy of having a street named after him in New Brunswick and the street should be named after a real American hero; John Peter Zenger. The speaker went on to explain why MLK was unworthy of such an honor, “Martin Luther King Jr. has plagiarized many of his speeches, has committed adultery on countless occasions, is a communist, and he rejects the catholic religion,” the New Brunswick man said, while being interrupted by laughter from people who did not share his point of view.

In response, a long time New Brunswick resident paced the room and delivered a rebuttal that left him in tears. “There is no street in New Brunswick that could reflect the true beauty that Martin Luther King represented, but I see no better street in this town that’s worthy of his name,” the man said. The city council did not render a final decision on this topic and will consider it at a later date.

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