A friend in New Jersey writes about possible haredi corruption and fraud in Lakewood, which has the first haredi mayor in the US. (I’ve edited this and changed some of the wording for clarity):
In 2000, Rabbi Meir Hertz pleaded guilty to filing a false federal income tax return. As part of a plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney, he was required to resign as executive director of the Lakewood Housing Authority. Nevertheless, Lakewood Township has a contract with the Lakewood Tenants Organization whose executive director is? The very same Rabbi Meir Hertz. What does the LTO under Rabbi Hertz do? It operates a Section 8 program.
The problem with the slumlords is as follows: Lakewood has a large number of undocumented aliens who build the housing for the Orthodox community. Due to their illegal status, they are poorly paid. They rent single family homes from slumlords (often Orthodox Jews) who charge exorbitant rents, taking advantage of the illegal’s status. In order to pay the rent, other similarly situated persons are invited to share the place. You then have a situation of 15 people living in a single family house with one bathroom, together with excess garbage, noise, drinking, public urination, unregistered cars parked on the lawn, grass not cut, etc. etc. The Lakewood Code Enforcement Officers in response to complaints from neighbors then cite the landlords. But that is often useless. Why? Several reasons:
1. Many landlords claim as their mailing address every property they own. It makes it difficult and often impossible for Lakewood to find these slumlords.
2. Slumlords frequently get multiple letters because of multiple violations at multiple properties.
3. Sometimes Lakewood issues summonses but they are not much of a deterrent. Why? The slumlords don’t always show up at their court dates.
In fact, these slumlords are now suing the Township over the overcrowding issue on the grounds that its ordinances are unconstitutionally vague. I am told that a settlement will soon be reached and I doubt I’ll like it.
The chronic nature of these unsolved problems causes neighbors to move out. When they do, the slumlords frequently buy the property and make the situation in that neighborhood even worse.
I should also mention that tenants have been found living in closets, attics, and basements. All of this is documented in reports with pictures in in Lakewood’s files.