ORANGE, NJ – The Superior Court of New Jersey ruled in favor of the Housing Authority of the City of Orange (HACO), the Orange Housing Development Corporation (OHDC), and the City of Orange in the case of approximately 14 lawsuits filed by a local attorney.
According to court papers, attorney Jeffrey Feld filed at least 14 actions challenging various municipal measures the city has taken to build affordable housing and to revitalize commerce. These suits, among other claims, disputed the sale of municipal properties to HACO and the tax abatements for Walter G. Alexander Village I, II, and III. All of the lawsuits filed against HACO and OHDC have been dismissed in their entirety by the Superior Court.
While HACO and City of Orange officials are pleased with the court’s decision, they regret the waste of taxpayer money and staff time they had to devote to fighting inconsequential lawsuits. The City of Orange and the Housing Authority have spent in excess of $450,000 in legal fees and costs.
“We are happy to have won and grateful to the courts for ruling in our favor, but we are frustrated that so much time and taxpayer money had to be spent on frivolous lawsuits,” said Ernest C. Williams, HACO’s chairman of the Orange Housing Authority. “As two public agencies, we work with a minimum of staff and financial resources. We are always careful to make every dollar count, so we can provide the best housing for the people of Orange.”
Feld acts as counsel to his family’s business, Four Felds, Inc., which operates as L. Epstein Hardware and Reasonable Lock & Safety in the City of Orange. The lawsuits against the City, HACO and OHDC involved many claims that were not supported by law, and after careful review of the record and the applicable legal principles the court in many instances concluded and ruled that Feld’s arguments were without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. In one of the lawsuits filed by Feld, he protested the sale of 16 parcels of land sold by the City to HACO, charging that the sale should have been authorized by ordinance, not resolution. Even though the court dismissed the case based on established law, Feld made the same claim in a subsequent lawsuit involving the sale of six other parcels of land by the City to HACO. The latter case was decided and dismissed based on the same law applied by the court in the earlier lawsuit. This is just one of example of the frivolous nature of the claims filed against the City of Orange, HACO and OHDC.
Although the lawsuits were dismissed, Feld is not prohibited from filing countless future complaints.
“We appreciate that the court found in our favor, which allows us to continue to be a part of the important work of revitalizing the City of Orange, but we wonder how many times our progress will be stymied by inconsequential lawsuits such as these,” said attorney Demetrice Miles of McManimon, Scotland, and Baumann. “Together with the City of Orange and the Housing Authority, we are making a difference in so many lives.”
Added attorney William Northgrave, also with McManimon, Scotland, and Baumann, “These lawsuits were a distraction from the partnership between the City and the Housing Authority who are striving to improve the welfare of the community. We have been proud to be a part of these essential efforts.”
Remarked Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren, “Although we have once again been vindicated by the court’s decision, we are aggravated by the waste of resources spent fighting these lawsuits that should never have been brought. The money and our staff time could have been better applied to developing more affordable housing and better living conditions for the residents of Orange.”
That partnership between the City of Orange and HACO has already reaped benefits for the community. Walter G. Alexander I, II, and III have already transformed the neighborhood of Central Place and North Parrow Street into a cozy village of brightly colored townhomes. The fourth phase of Walter G. Alexander is underway. Crime is reportedly down 30 percent, jobs have been created, and property values have increased. In the larger community of Orange, the redevelopment has stimulated the local economy and contributed revenue to the city.
About the Orange Housing Authority
The Orange Housing Authority works to transform the City of Orange by providing safe, livable and affordable housing that promotes the development of communities. At the Orange Housing Authority, participants are not statistics, they are neighbors. The agency knows the community and tailors programs to better serve the needs of its residents.Whether it is a search for housing, assistance with foreclosure or neighborhood development, the Orange Housing Authority stands ready to offer its services to all residents.