A Union City man who allegedly offered a West New York construction code official $5,000 in hundred dollar bills to overlook an illegal apartment, turned himself in to the authorities last week, according to U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie.
Herman Friedman, 48, owned a building at 235 56th St. in West New York, for which the town issued a Notice of Violation during a routine inspection on March 2, 2007, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“An apartment can be illegal for any number of reasons,” said Daniel Horgan, the town attorney for West New York, last week. “Basically, it [would not] meet some code or zoning requirement.”
An apartment that is deemed illegal may not have its own bathroom, kitchen, or proper exits. Sometimes, in towns such as West New York, Union City, North Bergen, and Guttenberg, basements have even been partitioned off to create a number of such apartments. There have been cases in the past where illegal aliens paid $80 rent each week.
“I think what happens in some of these older buildings that were built with a certain number of apartments is that people try to divide the existing units into smaller units,” said Horgan.
The property also lacked a Certificate of Occupancy, which would certify that the building was suitable for housing residents, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“The Certificate of Occupancy establishes that the apartment or the property has been inspected and complies with all the codes and standards,” said Horgan. “Every unit should have one.”
Friedman was instructed to remove the apartment or obtain a variance from the Zoning Board. However, during an Aug. 30, 2007 meeting at his building, Friedman allegedly used hand signals to communicate to the official how much he was willing to pay to have the apartment passed, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Nearly seven months later, in March of this year, Friedman was recorded by the FBI arriving at the official’s office with an envelope containing 50 $100 bills, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney said that his office would not disclose the name of the official at this time.
However, in recent weeks, officials in both Union City and West New York have pleaded guilty to incidents involving zoning.
Similar to other cases Last month, a West New York architect and attorney, Jose A. Izquierdo, 52, admitted to the FBI that he bribed a Union City Zoning Board member with money and other gifts for official favors for his projects and clients.
In June, John Medina, 38, a former member of the Union City Planning Board, pleaded guilty to charges that he accepted more than $20,000 in bribes from a contractor, according to a release from the U.S. attorney’s office. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine and will be sentenced on Sept. 22.
In July, Franco Zandardelli, 58, a West New York construction code officer who also worked in other municipalities in Hudson County, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes totaling more than $30,000, according to a press release. He will be sentenced on Nov. 10.
$100,000 bail Friedman appeared before Judge Michael A. Shipp on Sept. 4 and was released on $100,000 bail. The charges against Friedman carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
He has not yet entered a plea, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley Harsch. Attorney Howard Brownstein, who represents Friedman, did not return a phone call for comment last week.