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Rent Control Referendum Overturned, Outcome of Election Now Void

A superior court judge has ordered a new referendum to be held to answer the question to uphold rent control in Hoboken or to switch to a "vacancy decontrol" model.

Superior Court Judge Christine Farrington has overturned the result of November's referendum about rent control.

The rent control laws in Hoboken were changed two years ago, when the full council approved the new laws.

While voters decided to uphold rent control on its current form in Hoboken — rather than changing to a vacancy decontrol system — the outcome was later contested. 

After all the vote by mail ballots were counted, rent control was upheld by less than 50 votes. A group of 15 voters — with the support of the Mile Square Tax Payers Association and lead by lawyer Charles Gormally — contested 92 ballots.

Now, Farrington decided, that the vote will have to take place again.

Cheryl Fallick, a long time rent control advocate who also sits on the city's rent leveling board, said the decision is "outrageous."

Fallick said she hopes that the state and the county will appeal and that there won't have to be a new referendum.

She called the contesting of the referendum "the most pathetic, bogus thing."

In turn, Gormally sent out a statement that explained their side's victory.

According to a mass email, Gormally said he and the fellow contesters "discovered that nearly 200 voters were denied the right to vote for or against the public question. 

In Sandy's aftermath, the state decided that voters could fill out provisionals at any polling place.

"Unfortunately, voters who did this and appeared outside of Hoboken to vote, were not presented with a Hoboken ballot and therefore could only vote for the presidential and senate races," the email stated.

The judge ruled a new election to have to take place within the next 60 days. No date has been scheduled yet.

ThisMeansWar February 13, 2013 at 03:20 AM
What self-respecting republican would turn a blind eye to the rampant election fraud and vote buying that your favorite BOE candidates and city council members utterly depend upon.
Ojo Rojo February 13, 2013 at 04:18 AM
I am against rent control. I will not be voting that way specifically because I want any major ballot initiative like this to be held during a regularly scheduled election and am not a fan of how MSTA has behaved. Consider this yes vote a no vote during the special election.
Outofcontrol February 13, 2013 at 04:19 AM
MSTA is typical of what Hoboken has become. Most of the members (those who aren't greedy Realtors and who actually own property here) bought property knowing full when what the Rent Control Ordinace required. But just like everything else around here, they expect the town to become what THEY want it to be. How many times have we heard..."I love it here, but we need more parks" or "I love it here but we need bike lanes" or even "I love it here but the schools don't work for us" or "I love it here, but I hate everything about the place". ?
demosthenes February 13, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Wow!! What a thoughtful intelligent post! Eliminating rent control = creating more park space. Both are "change." Change is bad. Hoboken as it was 25 years ago - love it or leave it Of course based on your previous posts there is an exception to that rule. Residential development good because after all developers need to make a living. Sometimes I wonder whether certain screen names have a clue just how moronic they sound.
Smokestack February 13, 2013 at 06:17 PM
"Vacancy decontrol" is code for eliminating rent control all together. This is a massive transfer of wealth and will force any future low wage workers out of our city. It will change the make up of Hoboken forever Look at the disasterous effects of this policy in NYC in the 70s and Boston in the 90s. And this is what happened to Santa Monica California in the late 90s..... ".... the effects of ten years of allowing market rate increases on vacant apartment. In deregulated units, prices rose in 1-bedroom apartments by 90 percent, in 2-BR apartments by 97 percent, and in 3-BR apartments by 104 percent. A household that could afford the median rent for a regulated apartment would need to make an additional $24,576 to $49,284 per year, depending on the apartment size, in order to afford the same sized unit in a deregulated apartment. Median rents in deregulated apartments of all sizes are now unaffordable to households making 100 percent of the median area income, and deregulated 1br, 2br, and 3br apartments are unaffordable even to those at 120 percent of median area income."
Ojo Rojo February 13, 2013 at 06:58 PM
And why did rents rise so much? 30 years of rent control created a massive shortage of rental housing.
MadisonMonroe February 13, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Mr. Siegel, rent control is a policy by which the government picks winners and losers. A true fiscal conservative would not only be able to understand the arguments, but also know which side wins the argument. Outofcontrol, since when is it an article of faith that a law is immutable? Just because some previous government enacted a faulty rent-control ordinance and enforced it unevenly doesn't mean it's been carved in stone. Smokestack: Hoboken has subsidized housing projects, senior citizen buildings and Section 8 vouchers. Should more private homes be knocked down to build more ugly Stalinist style buildings? The government built middle income buildings around the city and, shockingly, they are inhabited by people with enough income to buy second homes down the shore. (see above...government shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers.) And the judge seems to feel that voters were disenfranchised. I would have guessed that the reformers here were in favor of the rule of law being enforced for all their fellow citizens (especially when it was denied by an Act of God). I stand corrected.
KenOn10 February 13, 2013 at 09:34 PM
The voters DID decide, now they must decide again. I can't wait for the barrage of misleading glossy mailers from MSTA, and the newspeak on the ballot. Your logic fails because there are very few (if any) mom and pops who have extra apartments but aren't renting them due to rent control. Rents won't go down, they'll go way up.
recallbethmason February 13, 2013 at 10:34 PM
smokestack, you might have a valid argument but lets be honest here, markets dictate prices...yeah maybe it isn't fair for the the people who have lived in hoboken all their lives but on the same note, i have had to pay market value for all of the years I have lived in hoboken. yeah, i can now afford it but when i first got here it was tight but I had to deal with it if I wanted the short commute to work in NYC. the reason why you wont get any support here is because of the abuses that have occurred over the years. look at the russo family for example, they have subsidized housing so they pay way below market but have a beach house? where is the fairness there? many people believe if we get rid of rent control we will also get rid of the corruption as mike russo, etc will no longer be able to live here.
KenOn10 February 14, 2013 at 01:47 PM
recall, how do you connect the rent control ordinances with well-to-do people living in subsidized housing like Church Towers? Apples and oranges. I think smokestack is right on the money.
Hazel February 14, 2013 at 02:49 PM
What man ringing doorbells all over Hoboken? Can you give more details?
Hazel February 14, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Voters already decided. This is about msta having paid for a certain number of absentee votes that got lost or were counted because they weren't handed in on time because of the storm. They want the outcome they paid for, dammit!
Hazel February 14, 2013 at 02:56 PM
Thank you.
Hazel February 14, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Ojo Rojo: there is absolutely no shortage of rental units in Hoboken. Or anywhere is in Hudson County. I'll bet money Hoboken has a glut of rentals. We'll never know of course because the RE industry are notoriously dishonest.
Hazel February 14, 2013 at 03:04 PM
And by Stalinist style buildings you mean Church Towers, right? Subsidized housing for those making six-figures. See: the Cunnings, the Russos, and plenty of others over there. Same with MVP. Most working people don't have the thousands to cough up to Romano for a two-bed with drop dead views of NYC for $1300.
Hazel February 14, 2013 at 03:08 PM
This is a perfect example of wealthy special interest groups buying the laws they want. If you can't win the election far-and-square, take it to court and use the power of your deep pockets to purchase it in the courts. I doubt very much that the tenants group has the money to fight this legally.
Hazel February 14, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Found the tenants website: http://hobokenfairhousing.com/ I'm sending $50 bucks. Hopefully, for the sake of democracy in Hoboken, they can fight this outrage.
Ojo Rojo February 14, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Hazel, the vacancy rate in Manhattan is under 2% in rental units. Nationally the vacancy rate is closer to 7 or 8%. We have a shortage around here. And let me remind you that empty units don't pay rent and there is no way in hell you have thousands of landlords colluding in the NYC area to drive up rents. The only large supply of vacant units in town are unsold condos and those are not for rent at all until they get sold and even then they will not be rented out at a loss. Take some economics classes, learn a bit about rent control and the housing market. There is a shortage of rental units in this region and the only reason anyone pays the prices we pay here in Hoboken is b/c the shortage is worse and the cost of living higher on the other side of the river. Or did you think the thousands of us who commute daily into NYC moved to Hoboken b/c we liked standing on the bus while stuck in traffic for 40 minutes every day?
Ojo Rojo February 14, 2013 at 04:06 PM
Rent controlled tenants are a special interest group too. Some of the rent control people were rumored to be backing Giachi during his losing campaign. That might be the linkage. And Ken, it isn't apples to apples really. There is no means test in rent control just like there is no means test in CT or MV for tenants once they get in those buildings. Rent control only helps people who need help finding affordable housing by accident, not by design.
cassandra February 14, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Much too late smokestack; the rich are already in control of the town; It will be even worse when tax re-assessment takes place. Most of the rent controlled units are in older buildings whose assessments are likely to be raised. Since the current rent control law allows tax increases to be passed on these increases will be passed on to the tenants - many of them old time residents. Hoboken used to be a nice friendly place where families lived for generations. Newcomers moved to town because they liked what was here. Now its all about change - (progress and reform they call it). Fortunately for me, being elderly, I was able to enjoy the 'real' Hoboken for most of my life. I feel sorry for you newcomers- you don't know what you missed. All you have now is another piece of NYC. Too bad. Hoboken used to be
Hawthorne February 14, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Ojo Rojo: Why did rents rise so much? You are wrong. In the 2000's before the Great Recession, there was an 'irrational exuberance' of buying real estate at whatever the price. Many new owners/landlords of property in Hoboken bought at the height of the market thinking that their investment would just keep rising up into the stratosphere without thinking about the irrationality of buying in a town where most people do not have garages for their cars and where now FEMA's map say that 80% of the town is in the flood plain. The poor tenants that have been living here for years were now victims of new owners that wanted them out of the way so that they could get more rent for the apartments to justify the millions they paid for the buildings. Now if you are a tenant and have been peacefully living in town for years, maybe your salary has not kept up with the irrationality of the market. A new owner would want to get rid of the rent control laws in place or at least decontrol the units. Rent control did not cause a shortage of apartments. There are no shortage of apartments. There is a shortage of reasonably priced apartments.
Hawthorne February 14, 2013 at 06:20 PM
Ojo Rojo: Why did rents rise so much? You are wrong. In the 2000’s before the Great Recession, there was an ‘irrational exuberance’ of buying real estate at whatever the price. Many new owners/landlords of property in Hoboken bought at the height of the market thinking that their investment would just keep rising up into the stratosphere without thinking about the irrationality of buying in a town where most people do not have garages for their cars and where now FEMA’s map say that 80% of the town is in the flood plain. The poor tenants that have been living here for years were now victims of new owners that wanted them out of the way so that they could get more rent for the apartments to justify the millions they paid for the buildings. Now if you are a tenant and have been peacefully living in town for 5, 10, or 20 years, their salary has not kept up with the irrationality of the market. A new owner would want to get rid of the rent control laws in place or at least decontrol the units. Rent control did not cause a shortage of apartments. There are no shortage of apartments. There is a shortage of reasonably priced apartments.
Hawthorne February 14, 2013 at 10:46 PM
Ojo Rojo: First of all, I must say that I admired what you initially said in your very first post. Even though you are against rent control, you did see that overturning an election as wrong. Just because a lawyer can be paid to do so, does not make it right. This does set a precedence and even the Board of Elections office was stunned that it was so easy to overturn an election in one day. Second, I agree that there are a lot of condos that are empty and are not rentals. But many of the condos in town use to be rental units until the crazy buying spree when they were bought up to get rid of the tenants to convert to condos to make a lot of money that people were willing to pay to buy in those crazy days. This emptying out of rental units has caused a shortage and especially a shortage of affordable, reasonable rents for middle class people. Not everyone has the money to buy a condo but needs to rent.
Hawthorne February 14, 2013 at 10:58 PM
I have to agree Scott, that MSTA never wanted to make any rent control process fairer. They were after only one thing and that was to end rent control, albeit surgically, piece by piece with the first piece of decontrolling properties. They feel if they couldn't win last November, then they would get their lawyer to have the election thrown out. I never realized it was so easy to overturn an election. Over 16,000 people voted on this one issue alone, more than on a candidate, and now all these peoples' votes are void. That is not only amazing, that is scary.
Hawthorne February 14, 2013 at 11:05 PM
MadisonMonroe, unless you bought your home before 1973, you must have known there was rent control in town. If you did not want to have the city or state tell you how much you could charge a tenant, then why would you buy the building? Rent control is the law. There are many laws I don't like, but no one forced you to buy in Hoboken. But if you bought if before 1973, that would be something else since the law would have come into effect AFTER your real estate purchase.
Hawthorne February 14, 2013 at 11:14 PM
franksinatra: You forget the reval is coming and the mom and pop's will sell out not fix up. The taxes will go up and be passed on to tenants and force many tenants out too. The people already decided on this referendum in the November 6, 2012 election. Just because one does not like the outcome, you don't redo an election.
Hawthorne February 14, 2013 at 11:30 PM
demosthenes: Outofcontrol is right that most (I would say all) of the MSTA members were fully aware that the buildings were under a Rent Control Ordinance when they bought them. They can not expect the town to become just what they want. After all, many types of people live in Hoboken. The MSTA members are rather actually quite lucky since many bought when property was cheap and they have made a killing through the years when property values went insane. I realize some of the members are newer property owners and they overpaid for their properties, but then remember the old saying: "Buyer Beware."
Hawthorne February 15, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Cassandra I agree. The rich ARE already in control of the town. They are and will determine the future of many things. They will only want high paying renters. Ironically enough, after the reval, rents will become high anyway because the tax increases passed along to the existing tenants will be phenomenal. Rents could go up by three or four hundred dollars in one fell swope. If one owns a four- or three-story building with tenants they will split the increase four or three ways. Since most or all of the taxes can be passed along to the tenants, the reval will cause each tenant's rent to go up substantially. The smaller buildings will be hit the worse. Say you can pass along $1200 dollars in taxes split three ways to three tenants in building. That is $400 more added to each tenant's rent. Wow. I really wonder what will happen to the rental market, shortage or not.
Eric February 17, 2013 at 02:43 PM
The rich have ALWAYS been in charge of this town. The old rich are just different from the new ones. They're still bullies but they'll send a lawsuit to your house instead of some goons. The reval is coming and Hoboken has swept it under the rug for decades, you have no one to blame but yourselves. I'm against rent control. There are too many hand outs in this city, on the flip side you have all of those people living in middle income housing who no longer qualify for it too. Rent control doesn't make rents lower, it makes it higher because there are less available units. The people who live in them cheaply would have had to move out a long time ago, so the rest of us have to pay higher rent because of the lower number of units. I'm quickly getting tired of paying for everyone else's life when I have had to struggle too. No one helps me out. I can't get into middle income housing. I don't live in a rent controlled unit. So explain to me why I should care? So what if middle income folks get forced out? You don't think I have had to move and comprise my lifestyle because of finances? That's life in America. Deal with it. I won't be here forever, I can't afford to buy and I'm ok with that.
Eric February 17, 2013 at 11:33 PM
Why does it take 8 hours for a comment to go live on this patch???

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