By Irene W. Yukash
Hoards of people protested outside New Britain town hall Wednesday night around the time of the Common Council Meeting. The ones that made it into the overly packed meeting voiced their opposing opinions to Mayor Tim O’Brien’s newly placed ordinances.
“Apparently they think another $150 punitive fine on landlords good or bad is the solution and I don’t understand,” said Nicholas Mercier, President of Citizens Property Owners Association.
The ordinance that has already passed requires landlords to pay a $150-per-unit annual fee starting next year. According to city officials, the ordinance is to protect New Britain from blight.
“What they’re really opposed to is being told they can’t continue driving properties in the ground,” said Phil Sherwood, a spokesman for O’Brien, reported by the Connecticut Post. “Most of them could care less about the quality of life in the neighborhoods. They just want to make sure the rent check is theirs.”
If the ordinance is put into affect as planned, landlords of large apartment complexes could be paying tens of thousands more dollars per year in taxes and fines. Many argued that the extra money would affect the wallets of not only landlords, but tenants as well.
“They’re forcing us to increase rents on tenants that really can’t afford it,” said Sam Zherka, New Britain landowner. “By imposing these fines on us it’s going to enforce us to impose these fines on the tenants.” He led the crowd outside with his megaphone.
“We need a new mayor, vote him out!” chanted the crowd as they waived signs and American flags. Amongst them was New Britain tenant Yashira Santiago. Her sign was aimed at the 911 Hot Spot Ordinance passed several months ago. The ordinance allows excessive callers of 911 to be fined.
“This should be a service, we’re all taxpayers, we shouldn’t have to extra pay for our safety,” said Santiago. “All of these things are going to affect our rent, we need to our full show our support for everything going on,” she added.
Inside the meeting, Mercier alluded to Zherka’s fear on increasing rent on tenants. “They can’t afford two dollars in increased rent a month, let alone fifteen,” he added. The over packed room was filled with cheer and applause.
Mercier, along with many other participants asked O’Brien to repeal the ordinances or face difficulties in the next election. But this isn’t the first attempt to fight back, and according to several residents, it’s not the last. As of Tuesday, several landlords took action to sue the city of New Britain.
“Work with the realtors, work with the Connecticut Property Owners Alliance to put in effective policies that will address blight and will improve quality of life in our city,” concluded Mercier.