Mayor Helps Couple Threatened with Eviction
Barberio said law designed to prevent apartment overcrowding wasn't intended to hurt small families.
A distraught married couple with a disabled child, facing threatened eviction from their apartment, turned to the Township Council and the mayor for help--and got it.
Ranya Tawfik, a tenant of Dartmouth Village Apartments on Baldwin Road, stood before the council and pleaded their case
"I'm currently in the process of being evicted from the apartment I've resided in for 12 years," she said.
The story involves an ordinance in existence that limits the number of people who can live in a one-bedroom apartment based on the square footage of the dwelling.
Tawfik said that when their daughter, who is disabled, was born four years ago, she and her husband suddenly were in violation of the law.
Their living situation was not a secret.
"Two years ago... an inspector came in and noticed that there wasn't any overcrowding," she told the council.
It became a problem last Friday morning, Tawfik said.
Despite the fact that they created a separate sleeping space for the child in the apartment's dining room, Tawfik said Housing Coordinator Rena Plaxe informed the couple that, under the ordinance, their bedroom was approximately 25 square feet too small to permit a third resident in the space.
"She gave us 30 days to move," she told Patch. "We pleaded for more time and she gave us 60 days to leave the premises or we would be out on the street."
Tawfik said she went to the mayor's office and was turned away, so she instead went to the governor, who said that Mayor James Barberio had to handle the situation.
"It was a misunderstanding, you weren't turned away," the mayor said.
She added that while at Town Hall she was given a recommendation to move to another apartment in Mill Gardens. That dwelling, Tawfik said was a one-bedroom domicile that met the ordinance requirements, however the apartment as a whole was more expensive and its total area was 55 square feet less than the Dartmouth Village flat.
"I don't understand where the logic comes in with overcrowding when I'm asked to move into a smaller apartment," Tawfik said.
The mayor said he would be happy to discuss the issue with Tawfik and her husband after the meeting.
"Don't worry, you will not be out in the streets," he said.
Immediately after the meeting's end, Barberio met with the couple and told them that given the 12 years Tawfik has been in the apartment, a grandfather clause should allow them to stay in their home.
The couple were elated and relieved.
"I have not been able to sleep or eat over this," Tawfik said. "We are so grateful to the mayor, who was never the problem. He is a great mayor and did the right thing."
"The problem is the ordinance," the mayor told Patch. "We are going to have to change it. It was supposed to address overcrowding. It was not intended to go after young families like this."
Barberio said he couldn't speak for the landlord "who was upholding the ordinance and has certain rights as well."
Dartmouth Village is managed by Landmark Companies in Keasbey.
The mayor would not comment in regard to Plaxe's performance.