By JOHN T. WARD
Nine months after Red Bank’s most prominent residential shithole was in a media spotlight, the situation just keeps getting worse, neighbors say.
Now, after years of litigation over summonses, the borough is going after the owners in civil court, hoping to win an order allowing the town to remove all the junk at their expense.
As it did last August, the house owned by William and Teresa Poku at 90 Bank Street attracted a metro-area TV news crew Wednesday.
And a neighbor told the borough council later in the day that the mess “is a public safety and health issue, not just a code enforcement one.”
News12’s John Bathke reported that the yard contains “at least eight vehicles, trash bags, car batteries, lawnmowers — the list goes on.”
But everything in the yard is useful, Poku told News12.
“These are assets,” he said. “These are materials that I used in a previous business, alright?”
Poku, who in the past has said he is not a hoarder, also told the station that he’s “very proud of” his yard, “because I’m self-sustaining.”
But neighbor Jeff Loonan, addressing the council at its monthly workshop session, said that when he and his wife bought their home three years ago, “I didn’t realize the property at 90 Bank Street would continue to exist with so many code and public health and safety violations.”
Since August, the property “has continued to decline, causing embarrassment and stress to the rest of the community,” Loonan said. Through runoff, it also poses a threat to the protected wetlands along the Swimming River just a block to the west, he said.
Meantime, “the owner of the property continues to mock and try to intimidate citizens” by videorecording them, Loonan said, and to flout the efforts of elected officials to enforce the law.
For years, court battles have simmered, often in the form of appeals filed by Poku when the borough has won a favorable ruling on summonses for code violations.
“At every turn he filed motions to try to hold that up, get municipal employees deposed records subpoenaed,” Business Administrator Ziad Shehady said last year. “He has filed lawsuits against two judges, police offices, the police department and numerous employees here. It has gone all the way to federal court system.”
Now, borough Attorney Greg Cannon said, the council has authorized him to pursue civil action, going “beyond municipal court” in an effort to have sheriff’s officers force the removal of the junk.
As he has in the past, Poku, who serves as the secretary of the Greater Red Bank Area NAACP, told News12 he’s being targeted because he’s African-American by people who want to gentrify the neighborhood.