Who Owns Newark? A Case Study of One Building

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“Between 2017 and 2020, 2,500 homes – more than 47 percent of the city’s one-to-four unit buildings – were sold to institutional buyers. In Newark, many of the properties were bought by completely anonymous investors, prompting the title of a report from Rutgers University law school, Who Owns Newark? Transferring Wealth from Newark Homeowners to Corporate Buyers.
As documented in this 73-page report, anonymous shell companies are now purchasing majorities of Newark homes and commercial spaces. Properties that Newark’s Black and Hispanic residents would otherwise own are now going to absentee landlords and invisible owners. The higher rate of absentee ownership is directly linked to rent increases and higher rates of eviction, particularly of poor and middle-class Black families. (source)
Just two of these several thousand properties are located at 569 and 571-577 Broad Street. Their ambiguous and hidden ownership mirrors the larger transfer of inter-generational wealth out of Newark. A case study of just these two properties parallels one for one concerns identified in the report Who Owns Newark? (source)
The two-story building at 571-577 Broad Street sold in 2019 for 4.2 million to a company named 569 Broad, LLC (source). No information is available about this LLC, aside from its business address: 400 Kelby Street, 14th Floor, Fort Lee, NJ. The only other company cross-listed at this same address is Cross River Bank with assets totaling 9.9 billion. As identified in the Rutgers report, business owners often create LLCs and shell companies to hide the full extent of their holdings.
The three-story building at 569 Broad Street sold in 2022 for 4.25 million to a company named 569-571 Broad, LLC (source) No other information is available, aside from the owner’s business address: 831 Bedford Ave, #515. This appears to be a fifth-floor unit in a private apartment building with security bars on all windows up to the top floor. A public database search of businesses registered in New York City and New York State reveals no licensed companies operating out of this address.
Within the same few months that the new owner acquired both properties, all small business owners were evicted or their leases were not renewed. Both buildings, which were majority occupied as early as three years ago, are now abandoned. This could be a case of manufactured blight and manufactured decline, as the new owner is now claiming both buildings are too decayed to save and must be demolished. The ejected minority-owned businesses include: 1) Nujoom’s Hookah Lounge, 2) Seventy Sixes Barber Shop, 3) Las Delicias De Mi Gente Cafe, 4) Ahio Immigration Law Office, 5) Goddess Lounge Salon & Spa, 6) Subway Sandwich, 7) Lan Mark Juice & Kitchen, and 8) Panda Chinese Restaurant.

 

The question remains: Who bought these properties? Who is the owner? We still do not know. However, as revealed as a footnote in documents submitted for the October 3 Central Planning Board meeting, both properties are owned by the same developer, a certain Israel Weiss from Ocean View Management (source). This company has no website, no public business profile, and no list of past projects they have completed. In fact, the company has almost zero presence in internet search results. Despite remaining almost invisible, the developer is now proposing to build a 45-story skyscraper at this location. In a city with median family income 37K, 80% of the 344 units will be for incomes upwards of 100K, while the remaining 20% will be for incomes between 80K and 100K. Who will live here? Certainly not current Newark residents! Normally, projects this large and ambitious come from developers with visible public profiles and track records of previous skyscrapers.
Over five public meetings that Mr. Weiss convened with the city and with James Street Commons residents, not once did he show his face over 15 hours of Zoom. The developer still remains for most intents and purposes anonymous and invisible, pulling the strings behind the scenes and directing his lawyer Calvin Souder to speak for him by text message communication during meetings.
However, further research reveals Mr. Weiss’s 2014 interview (source) discussing techniques of rent collection as a landlord for BHI Properties in Columbia, NJ.[1] A 2014 article described the trend in and near Columbia, NJ of outside investors buying up hundreds of homes that would otherwise go to homeowners and converting these units from homes to rental properties. This is identical to the trend Newark now sees in 2022. From the article: “BHI Properties set up shop in 2005 when a New York City investor in the company noticed how cheap housing was in the historic town. Israel Weiss is managing the most rentals in Columbia.” (source)
In a story as old as this country, renters do not build up home equity to have a stake and property rights in the communities where they live. Add to this histories of redlining since the 1930s which, as documented by legal scholar Richard Rothstein in The Color of Law, systematically denied non-White Americans the opportunities and financing they deserved for homeownership. The continuing failure to give Black and urban Americans equal opportunities for home ownership and self-determination continues this history of racialized space. As Mr. Weiss clarified in his interview, renting to cash-strapped communities is more profitable than selling homes to them: “The rent those people are paying are higher than what a homeowner would have paid in mortgage. So they got to earn it somewhere. Obviously, they’re earning it and paying their rent every month.”
Who is this developer? James Street Commons and Newark residents do not know. One thing, though, remains certain: The developer does not want us to know him. The question remains: Why?

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[1] There are several people in New Jersey by the name Israel Weiss. This Israel Weiss is to the best of my research the same Israel Weiss as the person behind this project.

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One Comment

  1. This is an excellent article, which certainly would be important presented before the zoning and planning boards. It would be out of the purview of the Historic Commission.

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