NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Boraie Development never registered their 25-story, 121-unit condominium building so that it could be inspected by the NJ Bureau of Housing Inspection, according to the state government.
In 1967, the New Jersey legislature adopted the “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law,” which it deemed “necessary for the protection of the health and welfare” of New Jersey residents.
But it appears that Boraie Development has not followed the law which was meant to “assure the provision… of decent, standard and safe units of dwelling space.”
The nine-year-old building is now experiencing problems with its concrete balconies and faulty plumbing that occasionally leaves individual condo units water-damaged, and recently caused serious injuries for at least one resident.
According to state law, property owners are required to register any hotels or residential buildings with three or more dwelling units so that they can be inspected by the NJ Bureau of Housing Inspections.
“The Bureau of Housing Inspections currently does not have this property registered as a multiple dwelling,” wrote Carmine Giangeruso, a Supervisor of Enforcement with the state, in response to a public records request seeking the inspection records.
“Additionally, the Bureau of Housing Inspections will be sending out an inspector to inspect/request the owner to register the property,” Giangeruso continued.
As we reported in October, a female resident of the building suffered second-degree burns after her condominium suddenly began filling with steam at about 2am.
“A woman got burned on her feet. The steam pipe had broken inside the ceiling of the sixth floor,” city fire official Dominic Quagliata confirmed on October 21.
“She hesitated coming out of the building because all the steam was coming out, it looked like smoke to her,” Quagliata continued.
“By that time, the water had gotten up a little high, and when she walked through, she burned her feet. She got second-degree burns on her feet.”
Second-degree burns are burns where the damage extends beyond the top layer of skin, and cause the skin to blister and become extremely red and sore.
That incident also took the building’s elevators out of service for several days.
Quagliata said that, “according to the management… [the pipe] didn’t explode.”
“What happened is they are in putting in shut-off valves… There’s a coupling on that valve. The coupling failed.”
According to the statue, 55:13A-12, “the owner of each… multiple dwelling occupied or intended to be occupied by three or more persons living independently of each other, shall file with the commissioner [of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA)] a certificate of registration.”
If Boraie had registered the structure with DCA, the building would have been subject to a state inspection every five years. It is not clear if the city’s own housing inspectors have ever inspected the building.
Sam Boraie, a Vice President at Boraie Development, did not respond to email and phone messages from New Brunswick Today. The firm has twice threatened to sue this newspaper for our reporting.
One Spring Street opened as the city’s tallest building in 2006, thanks to precious land provided by the New Brunswick Parking Authority (NBPA), a long-term tax exemption approved by the City Council and Mayor James Cahill, and a $15 million zero-interest loan provided by the state’s Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA).
After the resident was burned on October 17, New Brunswick officials took their time before responding to New Brunswick Today’s inquiries about the incident.
The New Brunswick City Council was dismissive of concerns about the incident at their October 21 meeting.
“Accidents and things happen in buildings. Just turn on the news,” said City Council President Kevin Egan. “Things happen. Bad or good, we wish nobody would get hurt, but they happen all over the place in every building.”
“I don’t understand why you’re, you know, picking on this establishment,” Egan continued.
Egan also compared the incident to a sewer back-up at one of the four homes he owns.
A New Brunswick Today investigation into Boraie Development showed that, for over six years, the politically-connected company skirted its obligation to include affordably-priced housing units in the Spring Street project.
After the administration of Governor James McGreevey cut the initial deal with Boraie to develop Spring Street, three consecutive gubernatorial administrations—two Democrats and Chris Christie—either re-neogiated with Boraie to delay their obligations, or simply did not hold Boraie accountable for their promise to provide affordable housing.
Boraie originally promised to offer 12 of the 121 units in the building at reduced prices, to people who qualify as “low-income” or “moderate-income.”
But that never happened, one of several broken promises that came along with the development of One Spring Street.
Even though the company had repeatedly failed to deliver on its promises of afforadable housing, the developer continued to rake in millions of dollars worth of tax credits from the NJ Economic Development Authority for other projects in Newark and New Brunswick.
The developer gained the attention of statewide media outlets and NBC New York after it secured a controversial government grant: $4.8 million that came from the state’s federal disaster relief funding intended to aid the state’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy.
Outrage ensued as the public learned that the precious disaster relief funds were going towards the construction of a luxury apartment building just a couple blocks away from Spring Street.
The new project, known as “The Aspire,” had already received a city tax abatement, and is located in an area that sufferred very little damage to its housing stock in the storm.
By 2013, Boraie had secured another city tax abatement for the new highrise planned for Somerset Street, as well as the infamous $4.8 million in Sandy money, which came via the NJ-HMFA, the same entity that Boraie had promised to provide the affordable units on Spring Street.
The administration of Governor Chris Christie was heavily criticized for the expenditure, but for his part the Governor claimed not to be familiar with that particular use of the “Sandy money.”
“We’ve built a lot of things with Sandy money and I don’t know what you’re talking about off the top of my head,” Christie said in response to a question from New Brunswick Today.
“I don’t make those decisions, but I’m sure that they were justified by what was happening with Sandy relief money and what the rules were.”
The Boraie family, and its patriarch Omar Boraie, have been among the county’s most generous political donors, but mostly to the party that Christie opposes.
The network of individual family members and companies linked to the Boraie family have given to the campaigns of Mayor James Cahill and other Democrats in Middlesex County for decades.
At the local level, they are represented by a high-powered Democrat, Thomas F. Kelso, who simultaneously represents the county government, the city’s Democratic party organization, and most of the city’s major developers.
But they are also connected to Christie, the state’s Republican Governor, through powerful attorneys and a former pro basketball player turned real estate developer.
The Boraies and their companies have been major donors to the campaign of Democratic US Senator Cory Booker, and the firm has also partnered with Shaquille O’Neal, who endorsed Christie for re-election in 2013.
Through the firm Gibbons PC, Boraie is also connected to Bill Palatucci, a close confidant of the Governor.
In 2012, Palatucci left his job as the head of Community Education Corporation, a private prison company that runs most of the halfway houses in New Jersey. Palatucci then took a job at the lobbying firm of Gibbons PC, a company that counts Boraie Development among its clients.
A lawyer who had once been law partners with Christie, Palatucci is widely considered to be his right-hand man.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.