Tuesday, August 16, 2016

AvalonBay tenants do a slow burn as investors celebrate

An aerial shot of the inferno that destroyed all 240 apartments in the Russell Building of the AvalonBay development in Edgewater on Jan. 21, 2015. Former tenants are still fighting for compensation.


Nearly 19 months after the Avalon at Edgewater apartment inferno filled TV screens and front pages, former tenants are still waiting for compensation even as investors celebrate higher profits and dividends.

The Record's front page today reports that tenants' lawsuits are "still in the discovery stage and it could take more than a year before they go to trial or are settled" (A-1 and A-6).

Staff Writer Nicholas Pugliese focuses on such frustrated former tenants as Marina Rubinstein and husband Fedor Zakharov of Fort Lee, shown in a Page 1 photo with their dog.

However, the reporter doesn't address weak tenant-protection laws; lax building codes that allow AvalonBay to use cheap, lightweight wood construction that does little to stop fires; or lawyers who will walk away with at least a third of any damages tenants recover.

At the end of 2015, AvalonBay Communities -- the nation's second-largest exchange-listed apartment real estate investment trust -- owned or had interests in 285 apartment complexes with nearly 84,000 units in 11 states and the District of Columbia.

AvalonBay now has a total enterprise value of $31 billion, according to REIT.com's Anna Robaton.

Trump aide, ally

Today's A-1 story about wacko racist Donald J. Trump focuses on campaign manager Paul Manafort, and on the continuation page, a related story reports ally Rudy Giuliani's senior moment on 9/11 (A-5).

The New York Times reported handwritten ledgers found in Ukraine show $12.7 million in undisclosed payments to Manafort from a pro-Russia party. 

Manafort, who is guiding Trump's hate-filled White House campaign, denied any wrongdoing.

In an Ohio campaign stop on Monday, Trump said he would bar any immigrant who doesn't believe in the U.S. Constitution "or who support bigotry and hatred" (A-1).

Presumably, it's OK for citizens like Trump to base their entire GOP presidential campaign on "bigotry and hatred."

As for that moron Giuliani, he completely forgot that 9/11 occurred in 2001, when George W. Bush was in office and he was mayor of New York (A-5).

"In the 'eight years before [President Barack] Obama came along, we didn't have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attacks in the United States,'" Giuliani said Monday in Youngstown, Ohio, where he promoted Trump's national security plan.

Leonia's Keystone Kops

A story on the Local front doesn't explain why it has taken Leonia Police Chief Tom Rowe two full years after a pedestrian death to figure out a way to protect others "at the borough's most dangerous intersection" (L-1).

On Aug. 7, 2014, Leila Kan, a vibrant 60-year-old restaurant owner, was struck in the crosswalk on Broad Avenue and Fort Lee Road, and dragged 71 feet along the pavement by a school minibus "whose driver failed to yield to her while making a left turn."

No police officer was stationed at the intersection to protect Kan and other pedestrians. 

Now, a new "red light phase at Broad Avenue and Fort Lee Road freezes all lights for 26 seconds to permit crossing at the intersection, used by thousands of cars and hundreds of pedestrians each day," Staff Writer Svetlana Shkolnikova reports.

'Cost prohibitive'

The reporter quotes Rowe as saying it would be "cost prohibitive" to post a police officer at the intersection, which is inundated by 15,000 cars a day from Route 95 whenever the George Washington Bridge is backed up.

But the truth came out two weeks after Kan's death in a 2014 Road Warrior column, where Rowe admitted only two of the borough's 17 officers were on duty at the time "and they were handling a domestic call."

Leonia Borough President Gil Hawkins also was quoted, blaming "a weak economy and declining tax base" for the loss of six officers "over the years."

Today's upbeat story doesn't explain why Leonia officials haven't hired more police officers in the two years since Kan's death.

Private concert

Staff Writer Jim Beckerman must have had blinders on when reporting on today's private master class and concert by Miri Ben-Ari, the young, glamorous Israeli-born violinist "and R&B, pop and hip-hop trailblazer" (Better Living front).

Ben-Ari will be stopping at The Elizabeth Morrow School, where her "Symphony of Brotherhood" -- a musical meditation on Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech -- will be performed on Thursday by 230 student violinists, age 4 to 13.

Isn't that rich? 

I guess Ben-Ari doesn't know or care Elizabeth Morrow is a private school on the East Hill, not far from the city's segregated elementary and middle schools.

Those black and Hispanic children haven't realized the dream of integration more than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education. 

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