Bayonne Rejects Rent-Control Petition; Activists Will Try Again

Tenant activists in Bayonne, New Jersey again came up short last month when they tried to get the city’s vacancy-decontrol measure overturned. The city clerk said March 23 that a petition filed by the Bayonne Tenants Organization did not have enough valid signatures to force a special election on the measure if the City Council doesn’t repeal the ordinance.

Bayonne, a city of 63,000 people, has about 390 rent-controlled buildings, under a 1973 law covering buildings with five or more apartments. Last November, the city enacted an ordinance that let landlords decontrol apartments if the tenant is legally evicted or moves out voluntarily.  Tenant activists immediately filed a petition to get the law overturned, but a judge rejected them on the grounds that the names of the drive’s organizers appeared on every third page of the petitions, instead of on every page. 

The petitioners tried again, and handed in 1,104 signatures on March 9. This time, the city said only 772 were valid signatures by registered voters, short of the 845 needed.

Howard Moskowitz, the lawyer representing the tenants’ group, said it would both challenge the denial in court and try to collect the remaining signatures needed. State law, he told the Jersey Journal, gives the tenants another 10 days to “cure” the petitions, and legal precedent requires the city clerk to specify why each invalidated signature was rejected. 

“This petition is going to be found valid,” he said.