Not in your back yard Hoboken resident wants cars off neighbors’ lawns

There is a little-known and even less-enforced provision in the Hoboken zoning code that prohibits parking in the back yards of Hoboken buildings. Jefferson Street resident John Glasel recently became frustrated when he tried to get City Hall to enforce this in neighboring yards, one of which actually has a gravel parking lot for which it is not zoned.

Now, Glasel’s condo association is irritated, too.

Glasel’s campaign started benignly enough two years ago. He and his wife like to read on their back deck. Their deck faces several of their neighbors’ yards. Those yards are zoned to be grass and planted shrubs, but instead, the Glasels look down on gravel and parked cars.

Glasel said Thursday that the cars were an immediate nuisance with loud radios and slamming doors that often woke the two of them up in the middle of the night.

Glasel’s attempt to abate the problem started with an innocuous letter in August of 2000 asking the city’s zoning officer to investigate the matter. Now, almost two years and a change of mayors later, he says that more than 65 letters he’s sent to various town officials have done no good.

At this point, Glasel is frustrated.

“At first, I was mystified that nothing happened,” said Glasel in his living room Wednesday. “Then, as time passed, I became more and more frustrated trying to understand how this could be.”

He added that all he wants is for the city’s laws to be enforced impartially and without favoritism.

Glasel contends that the owner of the property is getting a free pass from both the Russo and Roberts administrations, and he charges that the spaces could be rented out illegally.

According to Glasel, when he approached the city with the violations of different property owners, only some of the owners were forced to abate the problem.

City officials confirmed that the properties near Glasel’s are not zoned to provide parking in their back yards. Glasel said that one property owner, real estate developer Rene Abreu, the owner of 85 Madison and 501-513 First St., was not forced to remove cars from his property.

Several calls we made to Abreu’s office last week, but those calls were not returned.

An East Newark judge ruled on October 2, 2001 Abreu’s property at 85 Madison St. is in violation of the city zoning code because of the cars.

The judge fined the developer $250 and gave him 30 days to fix the problem. As of Wednesday, the back yard of 85 Madison was still graveled over, with numbered parking spaces containing cars. Glasel wants to know why.

City Business Administrator Laurie Cotter said Wednesday that it’s not a case of favoritism. Cotter supervises the Hoboken Zoning Office.

“There aren’t any developers getting special treatment,” said Cotter Wednesday. “I totally agree with Mr. Glasel and I can empathize and sympathize with him, but these things take time.”

Cotter said there are a couple of reasons for the delay. First, she says, there were two changes of venue for the case. Abreu had a conflict in Hoboken, so the case was moved to Union City, where he also had a conflict. Finally, it was moved to East Newark.

Cotter added that Abreu then applied earlier this year to the Zoning Board for a variance to use the back yard of 85 Madison as a parking lot. The application was denied at a Feb. 24 Zoning Board meeting. Since that time, no action has been taken on the property, and Cotter said that the municipal government will follow that matter up with due diligence.

“I know the speed of the request has not been a fast as you would have liked,” said Cotter to Glasel after he complained at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. Cotter added, “But there have been numerous delays that had to be overcome, all of which added to the length of time to get this resolved.”

But until there are no cars in those back yards, or the problem is abated in some other way, Glasel is not going to be satisfied. Recently, his letter was signed by other members of his condo association.

“I don’t care if it is corruption or incompetence,” Glasel said, “but something needs to be done.”


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