A letter to Mayor Sacco from Jenina Podulka

Dear fellow Hudson County residents:
I live in North Bergen and I recently sent the letter below to Mayor Sacco and the Zoning Board of Adjustment. I urge you to reach out to your public officials and attend town meetings about this issue as well. This is a trend that is impacting our whole county, and our voices need to be heard – otherwise, important decisions will be made without us. Here is a shortened version of my letter:
“I am a resident of the block where 67th Street & Kennedy Blvd West, LLC is proposing to build a mixed-use development with 62 residential units. After receiving a letter notifying us about this proposed project, I am very concerned about the impact it would have on the surrounding community. If this development is to be built with the health and betterment of the community in mind, it must include a significant number of units that are affordable to average- and lower-income North Bergen residents. If the rents in a new apartment complex are higher than what most people in the town can afford, it follows that the majority of the new tenants will be wealthier people from outside our area. A sudden influx of wealthier tenants to the neighborhood is an incentive for landlords to disregard or find loopholes in the rent control ordinance so that they can get a piece of the profits too. As rents in the town rise, real estate companies also have incentive to try to buy up more and more land, employing whatever means necessary to vacate the current tenants or homeowners to make room for new development. This kind of resident displacement is happening across the country on a large scale, and it disproportionately affects low-income residents and people of color. All of this is often done in the name of “progress”, but it has a devastating effect on families who can no longer feel secure in their homes and may end up being uprooted from their jobs, schools, families, friends, and neighbors. Dealing with an unstable housing situation is incredibly disruptive to every other aspect of one’s life. And when people are displaced, the unique cultural influences that create a neighborhood’s character are lost too.
We cannot allow this to happen here in North Bergen. Real estate companies do not necessarily have any regard for the communities that exist in an area where they are interested in building, and it is our responsibility to protect those communities. I’ve lived in North Bergen my whole life. It is culture-rich and resilient, a special mix of heritages and home to a very large number of independent, minority-owned small businesses. This is what we are at risk of losing, but it is possible to have development without displacement. I urge you to require that this proposed development reserve a substantial proportion of truly and permanently affordable residential units, to ensure that this building benefits and serves the current population of North Bergen.”

Jenina Podulka

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