The city has stumbled on another obstacle in its struggle to clean up a plot of land filled with garbage dumpsters, tractor trailers, a rusty car with shattered windows, and a boat by going after the owner of the vacant land in the corner of Franklin and Summer Streets.
“It always had a dumping problem,” said Ellen Heines, owner of the property, who was summoned to the Paterson Municipal Court on Friday morning.
Also summoned to the court was Ben Raabe, owner of Ridgewood-based Bella Cleaning & Carting, whose firm has been leaving dumpsters at the site.
Heines said she allowed the company to leave dumpsters and vehicles at the location. She is not charging rent from the company, but is allowing the workers of Bella to park their dumpsters and trucks on the trash littered lot, she said.
“He has numerous prior warrants,” said Vincent Stampone, prosecutor at the municipal court. He said Raabe has a problem appearing in court. The last time the city was able to compel him to appear before a judge by issuing a $10,000 bench warrant, he said.
Raabe has been causing problems in the downtrodden 4th Ward. Last July, it was discovered he was operating the company illegally out of the dead end of Warren Street.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, expressed disappointment, when the court failed to issue another bench warrant to force Raabe to appear before the court.
Stampone said the Paterson Municipal Court has to transfer the case out because Heines’ filed a lawsuit against the city. Heines said the crux of her lawsuit is to prevent the city from going on her property.
“I don’t want the city on my property,” said Heines. The city sent Heines violation notices and letters to go onto her property to clean it up.
In fact, city officials contend her property, 28 Summer Street which is owned by a company out of Wayne called Summer Associates LLC., is a health hazard.
Heines, who said she lives in Paterson, has tires, carpets, a broken television, and other junk on her property and the sidewalk. City officials worry the tires, which retain rain water, could breed mosquitoes, and create a Zika virus problem.
“It’s a horrible situation for seniors,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, who was present in the courtroom. She received numerous complaints from residents of the nearby housing complex, she said.
Cotton said the complaint often involve stench emanating from the garbage dumpsters left at the location. She said it has been particularly bad this week with weather over 90 degrees.
Though her property resembles a combination of a wrecking yard and the floor of a transfer station, Heines appeared oblivious or unconcerned about the appearance of her lot or the quality of life problems originating from it for senior citizens living at the Nathan Barnert Residence.
Heines’ said the rusty vehicle buried under weeds is registered and insured. She said the boat belongs to her. The property is in a mixed use zone, she argued, which allows her to keep the items she has on the lot.
Outside of the courtroom, Cotton tried to show Heines the problem her property is creating in the neighborhood without success.
“We’re seeking to address the deprecation of quality of life,” said David Gilmore, director of the Community Improvement Division, who has been going after the garbage company and the property owner.
The city will have to show Heines the problem her property has created in the 4th Ward in another courtroom.