Mayor Visits James Street Residents-Click Here

Reproduced from The Record

Thursday, July 1, 2004

by Michael J. Wildes, Mayor, City of Englewood

2-10 N. Van Brunt Street

Englewood , NJ 07631

201.871.6666

Raids on Latino homes assailed
Englewood mayor’s panel takes ‘first step’

By Andrew Glazer, Staff Writer

ENGLEWOOD – A mayor’s task force formed after a series of raids on Latino homes found the raids were “intrusive and bordered on civil rights violations.”

Mayor Michael Wildes created the task force, made up of Latino activists and local business people, to investigate claims that the city specifically targeted Latinos with inspections of suspected overcrowded or unsafe homes.

Members of the group said it met four times in the past 60 days, interviewed residents, and spoke to housing experts. Wildes, who drafted a page long summary of the group’s findings, said City Manager Robert Benecke forbid city employees to cooperate with the task force.

Wildes described his position as mayor as largely ceremonial and said there was little he could do to the force Benecke or other employees to cooperate. Benecke, who has previously dismissed the complaints as “falsehoods” did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.

The group, however, said it expects the City Council, city manager, and mayor to take its findings seriously.

“This is the first step,” said task force member Darlenson Roldan, a social studies teacher and member of ODECI, a local Latino civil rights group. “If things don’t change, there will be demonstrations. We’re going to make sure the community is aware.”

The task force acknowledged the importance of code enforcement. But it found that residents didn’t know they had a right to turn away inspectors without a warrant, or were too frightened to speak up. The task force recommended that city inspectors undergo sensitivity training and said the city should work harder to educate tenants about home safety.

An advisor to the task force, Wilson David Bernal of the Englewood-based Hispanic American Alliance, said he forwarded the complaints to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights.

Inspectors haven’t conducted any raids since residents of the primarily Colombian neighborhood of West Charles, and James streets flooded a council meeting last winter and expressed their outrage. A statement to The Record by Construction Official Donald Porrino following the last raid stoked the Latino community’s anger.

“I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, or what,” he said in January. “They may think it’s safe, but it’s getting out of hand. We keep seeing the same people in different parts of town.”
Porrino said at the time that inspectors targeted homes with multiple mailboxes or buzzers, piles of bicycles in a side yard, or a light in the attic - all indications of more than one family. He said the inspections were conducted to ensure the safety of the residents.

Porrino has since declined to comment to The Record.

But after reviewing the task force’s findings, Wildes demanded change.

“What happened here was wrong,” he said. “And if anything like it happens again, there will be serious repercussions, not only from Latino leadership but from the mayor of the city.”

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Mayor Reorganizes Housing Inspections Taskforce

  As a result of a time conflict, Remberto Perez, the former Chairman of the Mayor's Englewood Housing Taskforce, has resigned. The taskforce is being reorganized under the leadership of a new Chairman who has set April 27 th as the date for their first organizational meeting, according to Mayor Michael Wildes.

  “I would like to remind everyone, that this taskforce is made up of volunteers, who are giving of their time and talent to assist the people of Englewood ,” said Wildes. “I respect the fact that Mr. Perez had some unexpected time demands and appreciate that he stepping aside to permit us to reorganize in a timely manner so we can reach our goals.”

  Last month, Mayor Wildes formed an advisory taskforce on housing issues to review the treatment of Latino immigrants during housing inspections. He has also been seeking the bi-partisan counsel of other New Jersey mayors who have faced similar housing issues, including Mayor Javier Marin, of Dover Township in Morris County .

  Christian Estevez, an Education and Training Coordinator for the New Jersey AFL-CIO and a Vice President of the New Jersey Latino Leadership Alliance will be replacing Perez as Chairman. Estevez has reorganized the committee membership, expanding it to include those from in and outside of Englewood .

“I trust that Mayor Wildes has in mind the best interests of Englewood and the community,” said outgoing Chairman Perez. “Although I am disappointed that I can no longer give this taskforce the time it has demanded, I am fully supportive of its continued efforts and the Mayor's work.”

  Estevez said that the new taskforce members will hold their first official meeting on Tuesday, April 27 th at 8:30pm . At that meeting, the members plan to agree to a timeline for completing their work within 60 days.

In addition to Estevez as Chairman, Wilson David Bernal, of the Hispanic American Alliance, will be working with the taskforce on an advisory basis.

Subject to expansion before their first April 27 th meeting, the Mayor's Advisory Housing Taskforce members currently include:

Darlenson Roldan, Clifton , New Jersey  

B.A. in History – Ramapo College

Former Kindergarten teacher

Current Social Studies teacher at St. Cecilia's School, Englewood

Founding member “ODECI” in Englewood

 

Luis A. Sanchez, Englewood , New Jersey

B.A. – Applied Mathematics

M.A. – Student Personnel Services

M.A. – Administration and Supervision

Founder and President – ODECI

School Counselor – Dwight Morrow High School

 

German (Herman) Cardona, Englewood , New Jersey

B.A. – Spanish Literature, M.S.U.

Prof. – Henry George School of Social Science, NY

Founder and Vice President - ODECI

 

Zdenka Torres, Englewood , New Jersey ( Bio unavailable at release time)

 

Juan Negron, Bergenfield , New Jersey

Bergen County Coordinator , Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey

Business Agent,

District Lodge 15 IAM & AW

International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers

 

Paid for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes, Claudia Colbert, Treasurer