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Family Saved from Eviction Threat Endangered Again

Town Council bows to pressure and halts occupany law change; family with disabled child again faces losing their home.

Ranya Tawfik said she learned a tough lesson at Tuesday's Township Council agenda meeting at Town Hall: "Parsippany doesn't care about my family."

That was the reaction she shared with Patch after the council, citing citizen fears over overcrowding in apartments and single-family homes, decided not to go forward with .

Council President Brian Stanton said a new means to protect residents who find themselves in violation of the law will be explored. 

"That's going to take time," he said. "It's not going to happen overnight."

And that puts Tawfik, her husband and their 4-year-old disabled daughter in jeopardy, she said.

The proposal would have allowed waivers to be given to residents who find themselves running afoul of the ordinance but who clearly are not engaging in unlawful stacking so that they may remain in their homes.

The amended ordinance was set to be heard for its second reading at the Aug. 21 council meeting, but Councilman Michael dePierro asked the body to delay further consideration of the measure.

"This is something that maybe we should not do," dePierro said. "When you create an ordinance to help one family or one small group of people, but your ordinance affects the whole town, usually that's a wrong decision."

The councilman said he was convinced by that a.

"Conversations I had with all kinds of people brought up a lot of 'what ifs,'" he explained. "This could create one huge nightmare in the buildings department to administer this. So the consensus of the Township Council at this time is not to provide a waiver process."

Town Attorney John Inglesino explained that the waiver plan "was intended to be a temporary solution to provide relief to a resident who addressed the council [Tawfik]."

Mayor James Barberio, who initiated the ordinance change after speaking with Tawfik and her husband after the May 15 council meeting, defended his .

"I don't think the ordinance's intent should ever be that if you live in a one-bedroom apartment and your child that turns four years old that you should get evicted," he said. "That's not stacking. I was asked to go to the Township Attorney and find a way that we could prevent that from happening. This was the way to do it—with a waiver process. The last thing I ever want to do... is to see people get evicted because they have one child that hits a certain age.

"If you kill this ordinance, that's what's going to happen."

Tawfik said the Dartmouth Gardens apartment she's lived in for 12 years was inspected by Housing Supervisor Rena Plaxe, who, according to the resident, used a measuring tape to measure the bedroom and then informed Tawfik that the room was 15 feet too small and that the family would have to move. Tawfik said she was told that her violation had to do with the size of the room, not with her daughter's age.

According to Tawfik, the Housing Department suggested another one-bedroom apartment that was more expensive and, overall, 45 square feet smaller, though the lone bedroom was large enough to satisfy the law. She said that because she presently is unemployed, she can't afford to spend any more.

"I thought this was all settled and that we were safe and that the ordinance would pass," Tawfik told Patch, tears streaming down her face. "Then today I get a call from the Zoning Department telling me to come to the meeting because even though the mayor said everything would be OK, we were in trouble again."

Tawfik said that without the ordinance change, her property manager is bound by law to evict her family.

As Inglesino said, "The clock is ticking. ... My understanding is this is pretty immediate."

"It will take time for the policymakers to come up with a better, long-term solution," he said. "The problem is that we have a law on the books. ... The apartment complex is forced to abide by the law."

"Does a husband and a wife and a child, 4 years old, constitute stacking?" asked dePierro.

"It's a clear violation of the ordinance," Inglesino replied. 

Councilman Paul Carifi Jr. cited his experience working for the Morris County Sheriff's Department as his justification for supporting a more stringent anti-stacking law.

"If we grant a waiver for a particular incident," he said, "the next day, 100 people walk in with that same predicament and we have to say yes. If you grant it for one, you have to grant it for all. We need to keep it stringent or it will add to our stacking problem."

The mayor defended Tawfik's family, saying that they had done nothing involving stacking.

"I wholeheartedly support looking into this administratively, but I do not support granting waivers," said dePierro.

"I understand that there's a law on the books, but there are a lot of things that don't get enforced," said Councilman James Vigilante. "I understand that it would be inappropriate for the mayor to call the apartment complex."

Inglesino agreed that it isn't possible for the law to be enforced on a selective basis.

That view was echoed by resident Ray Vigano.

"This waiver business will open up a huge can of worms," he said. "It's too complicated to enforce. I was shocked and surprised to hear that this was driven by the concerns of one family. The intention might be good, but I don't think that's the way you run a town. The ordinance exists for a reason.

"Whether it's a 4-year-old child or an 80-year-old person, there are only so many square feet per person allowed," he said. "If someone has to move because they have twins, they have to move. ... A one bedroom apartment is not intended to be occupied by more than two people."

The council voted unanimously to pull the proposed ordinance amendment from the agenda with the understanding that more research would be done to find a way to deal with situations like Tawfik's.

However, the future for her family is unclear.

Mayor Barberio apologized to Tawfik after the meeting and told her he wouldn't stop trying to help.

She, however, was inconsolable.

"I can't afford to move, and I have to stay in Parsippany to keep my daughter in her special school," she said. "The , but they can't help me.

"I dont know what's going to happen to us. I don't feel safe," Tawfik said.

"And I don't believe this town cares what happens to us." 

patchitup1 August 15, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Stacking a single 4year old? Have any of these council members ever driven around lake Parsippany? Who's kidding who here! Look at all those "lake homes" built in the 40s & 50s being knocked down and replaced with Huge multi Family ones! How many people live in them? I was under the assumption that there were " no" legal" 2 family homes in Par-Troy. In fact a few years ago I wanted to build one with the same plans from a Lynhurst home I purchased. The town said no! Yet there are many Huge new Homes popping up all over town with muli-families living there and flooding our schools with kids. Why don't we start with looking into how many kids go to school from these homes? How many Extended family members get to live in them? A single child not even in school yet is not stacking. Try calling and see how high the rents are in Parsippany, it's because of this sq.Foot rule that allows 4 unrelated adults to share a 2 bedroom apt. And split the rent! That's 4 cars, 4 girl or boy friends, 4 "visitors" each ect. Get the picture.
Par70 August 15, 2012 at 04:00 PM
I don't think the stacking has anything directly to do with those going to school. I believe stacking is primarily based on a safety issue as to how many people can co-habitate in a residence. It is possible that reducing stacking will reduce the amount of children, but that is only assuming that the additional people are in the stacked residence are children (which is not always the case). Regardless -- agree that creating waivers will create lawsuits. It really comes down to how the ordinance is enforced.
Harland August 15, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Ranya - my question to you is: how is it that you've been unable to find a suitable, legal apartment in Parsippany GIVEN 4 YEARS TIME? Please don't tell me that it has been impossible to do. The stacking ordinance was established to address a problem. Once you start issuing waivers, you negate the effectiveness of the law. I guess YOU don't care about the other 50K+ citizens of this township, the quality of their lives and the lives of their children. Our school system is suffering under the strain of the stacking problem, and the homeowners of Parsippany are left paying the education bill because the apartment complexes are grossly undertaxed. Incidentally, the council didn't lift a finger to help Scott Dean in his problems with the PTWLL.
Michelle J August 15, 2012 at 05:21 PM
According to the website forrent.com Dartmouth Village one bedrooms range from $999 a month to $1235 a month. You could move to a huge two bedroom in Knoll Gardens for $1225 a month. Maybe you should look into that. It's not that big of a difference per month. Just a thought.
Harland August 15, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Ranya, The occupancy ordinace was passed in 2006. The fact that you did not receive a notice of violation does not mean you weren't violating the ordinance for the past 4 years. My guess is that your lease stipulates a limit on the number of people who are allowed to live in your apartment, and you chose to ignore that. You got away with it for 4 years, and now you are unhappy because you have to comply with the ordinace just like everybody else. Again, I find it impossible to believe that you have no other options for housing. I see how quickly you dismissed Michelle's suggestion - it seems to me that you don't want any other solution but to have the township change the ordinace to suit your needs. My point on the school system was about the impact that stacking has had in the past and the potential impact that would result if waivers were allowed. Parsippany school costs continue to go up while the quality of education goes down. Apartment residents basically get a free ride when it comes to the school system courtesy of the taxes paid by homeowners. Sorry if these comments come across as hostile. I honestly don't have any hostility toward you personally. But I am frustrated by people who think that laws don't apply to them.
Adam Gragnani August 15, 2012 at 07:15 PM
It is considered a "Stacking" problem when the apt is 15 feet short? OMG, what a bunch of nonsense. "Stacking" is when there are MULTIPLE families living in one residence or Apt with MULTIPLE children attending our school system and only paying ONE property tax. That is what is wrong with the system and that is what this township should be looking into solving not apts that are 15 feet short. In my opinion Ranya's Apt is NOT a stacking problem, it is what her family can afford in this tough economy. She states that she has lived there for 12 years, has a 4-year old daugher and now she and her family face Eviction? The township attorney states: ""It's a clear violation of the ordinance," , well perhaps the ordinance should be reviewed and modified. Have some common sense and reconize that this famly is trying to survive in a very tough situtation.
gina s. August 15, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Harland, You are 100% correct. The stacking debate was one of the largest issues in the last couple of town council elections. Committee members came door to door to promise they would enforce the laws. It's about time! I pay my taxes and don't complain because I have 2 children in the school system. It burns me up when the people who are not paying into the system abuse it. My kids suffer when our classes are overcrowded and the schools are falling apart because maintenance is not affordable. The law is the law, you need to comply like the rest of us.
Adam Gragnani August 15, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Ranya: Well said: It is very easy for people to pass judgement when the situtation does not affect them.
Angelina August 15, 2012 at 09:27 PM
I work 2 jobs to support my life style, pay my college loans, rent and bills....and I am one person. Please dont tell me there are no jobs at all in morris county. Hospitals are alwys looking for service workers. Try there. It's one thing to be unable to work. It's a whole other thing to be lazy and say " that's not good enough". You do what u have to do to support your family. Apartments are really not that expensive,esp with 2 incomes. But I don't work to support people who choose not to. I hope everything works out. But if u hate the town and the mayor and the way the town is run, move out of the town.
Bill Holder August 15, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Ange - shortminded comments like yours are useless. How dare you comment on the work ethic of someone you don't know. Its people like you that make me feel some Parsippany residents won't ever be rid of ignorance. Ange - do you take care of a child with a disability? Adam - I applaud your comments. It is well known you are a good friend of councilman depierro, who is on the wrong side of this. I hope fox, abc, nbc, and cbs news are given a call about what carifi, depierro, and vigilante are doing here. The stacking ordinance is NOT supposed to kick out a family of 3, it is supposed to bar multi-families from living in single dwellings. Let's see how FAST depierro, carifi, and jimmy have changes of heart when the NYC media market hears about this. Applaud the Mayor for his efforts to help this family, and I'm disapointed in Brian Stanton who initially was the spearhead to help this family, but now is quiet? Brian - what happened? Stacking is a seperate issue from what is happening to this woman, plain and simple.
Harland August 15, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Bill, The stacking ordinance does what all laws do - it defines acceptable boundaries of a situation in a manner that is objective and manageable. You claim that this situation is not stacking, but by the definition of the ordinance, it is. I'd like to know your definition of stacking. Should every situation be individually reviewed and judged by a panel? That wouldn't be manageable. Nor would you be able to achieve any level of objectivity. Or as you suggest, is stacking only relevant in situations where multiple families occupy the same space? If so, how do you define "family"? These days, The legal definition of family has basically become anything that anyone wants it to be. Do you honestly believe that there is no other solution but to change the ordinance? Do you believe that there is no other option for them, that this one apartment is the ONLY affordable housing in the area? If I discovered that I was in violation of a law like this, it would NEVER occur to me to go to the mayor and ask that the law be changed for me. I (and people like Ange) would find a solution and not expect special treatment.
NYYFan August 16, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Her child is not even in this school system yet, she is 4 years old. How does that impact any classroom in Parsippany? Some of the comments here are a disgrace and those making them should be ashamed. Just because you live in a house rather than an apartment, doesn't make you any better then anyone else. there are quite a few people living with their kids in their parents homes that they grew up in, but they are fine because it's a house? The grandparents, parents and kids live there. So 3 houses I know for a fact between the 3 have 7 kids in the system. 7 kids that are being educated because their parents couldn't afford to support them and moved in with the grandparents. How many more in this town are there like that? Those are the kids that shouldn't be in the schools. Their parents are going for a free ride. But that to you home owners is fine?!!! I may be in an apartment but at least I support my family ON MY OWN. There are a lot bigger problems with stacking than one family of 3 in a one bedroom apartment. Rayna, best of luck to you and your family. You have your hands full caring for a disabled child. Anyone here making ignorant comments, I am sorry you have to read the trash from Parsippany. it was never like this. Our town used to be warm, welcoming and willing to help our fellow neighbor. Especially a neighbor in need such as your family.
Angelina August 16, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Listen. Relax people. I'm not trying to be rude. I hope everything works out for her. But u can't make execeptions for 1 person n not the other 1000+ people who have the same issues. It's very sad. But Its still a violation. Unfortunately That's all there is to it. So there are other options. If u can't afford 100-200$ more a month by not working, start working! I live in a 1 bedroom apt too. My lease clearly states only 2 people are allowed to live In a one bedroom otherwise its cause for eviction. I'll email u a copy if u need to see it. Her situation sucks and I feel for her. It's tough but u do what u have to do. N these days, people need to work to survive or your in trouble. Hence the predictament. Some places offer free daycare too! U never know what you might find!!
Angelina August 16, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Oh and bill...really? Abc nbc fox and cbs have other things to deal with..like our messed up country, govt issues, criminals, robberies, assaults, mass shootings,etc.. that are going on. A favor that was no longer allowed to be upheld for a resident in an unfortunate situation is not their biggest concern. No offense. Try news 12. They might be able to go public w it.
Fred G Sanford August 19, 2012 at 04:21 AM
When people start leaving Parsippany in droves and its businesses fail, the town loses taxes and revenue, and the landlords in town cant rent to as many people --- those of you who didnt help people in need will be to blame. Who knows it may affect you and your family indirectly. Why hurt people in their time of need when a lot of them are struggling financially???
Fred G Sanford August 19, 2012 at 04:23 AM
FYI Parsippany has a crime problem but less people living in Parsippany because of this ordinance (if there is a mass exodus) also translates to a need for less policemen and less township and municipal employees.
Fred G Sanford August 19, 2012 at 04:24 AM
It also means they will need less teachers too.
Fred G Sanford August 19, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Do you realize how many families of 3 who live in single-bedroom homes and apartments will simply leave Parsippany because of this ordinance? Wont the town lose money and jobs?
Fred G Sanford August 19, 2012 at 04:28 AM
That translates to an extra $2700 a year people have to pay do you have it in your back pocket? Most people dont.
Natalie Davis (Editor) August 19, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Just so you all know, Ms. Tawfik contacted me Friday and was most upset by what she called the heartlessness of some of the comments. Everyone is entitled to their points of view, but can we please remember that we're dealing with a specific family who were brave enough to share their story and are experiencing great emotional distress by cruel, unfeeling words. Opinions can be expressed with humanity; words have great power to wound, particularly for those experiencing deep hardship. Whatever your view, and you are entitled to it, please remember this: Looking for work or for another apartment sometimes brings about the answer "no." Do not assume, please, that the parents are doing nothing.
Fred G Sanford August 19, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Other people pay taxes too. Its not a law its a stupid town ordinance and know what else its a discriminatory practice. The township could get sued!!!
Fred G Sanford August 19, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Maybe the lady just wants to take care of her own disabled kid and not leave them with strangers in a day care like you do with yours.
Fred G Sanford August 19, 2012 at 04:34 AM
I want to know which politicians are against changing this ordinance as I want to form a crusade against ever electing any of them to a governing position like Mayor in this town.
Fred G Sanford August 19, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Anyone know the # for "Shame on You" or "Help me Howard"?
Fred G Sanford August 19, 2012 at 06:10 PM
What really angers me about this story is the excuse that the township gives as in if we lift this ordinance 100 other people would want it lifted----- as if to say it would be too much paperwork and they are too lazy to do the jobs we pay them for.
shelly April 08, 2013 at 04:23 PM
But there are never any two bedroom available in knoll gardens unless you know somebody, people will have to move to the slums on newark, paterson, jersey city then you just have to risk you kid getting shot, so what not Parsippanys problem. this is the way the world works.

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