From the Times Ledger:
Bayside community activist Mandingo Tshaka has been slapped with a $27,400 city fine following a June inspection of his home by the city Department of Buildings. But he said one violation at his house had been corrected, while another was invalid under former city zoning laws.
Tshaka said a DOB inspector showed up at his home on a residential street south of Northern Boulevard June 4 and told him that a complaint had been made that he was running an illegal rooming house. The inspector searched the home, which had been owned by Tshaka’s grandmother, Lillian Ely Selby, since the early 1900s, and took pictures.
But Tshaka told the inspector that he, his aide and two renters lived in the house, which is registered as a one-family home.
“The 1961 [city] zoning resolution makes it clear that you can have two people living in your home, and the third person I have there is my aide,” said Tshaka, who uses a wheelchair. “It’s as-of-right. My house was a hotel, but I called it a way station. I kept the tradition of my grandmother and continued to rent rooms.”
Paul Kerson, Tshaka’s attorney, said Tshaka’s grandmother had converted the home into a rooming house in 1935 under the tenets of 1916 zoning laws, which legalized rooming houses or hotels in residential neighborhoods. In 1961, the city ruled that rooming houses could not be constructed in these neighborhoods, but under grandfathering laws allowed existing structures to remain as long as they were not further altered.
“What I think must have happened is that [the ECB] didn’t believe him,” Kerson said. “The building hasn’t changed since 1935. It’s clear he should not have to pay any fine. This whole thing is outrageous.”
Kerson has appealed to the ECB’s appeals unit on Tshaka’s behalf.