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Westville Apartments Ban Children From Playing

by Melissa Bailey | Jun 5, 2014 6:59 am

(17) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Housing, Westville

Melissa Bailey Photo Noah Enjalran wants to push his scooter and squish bugs in the courtyard of his apartment complex. Under rules imposed by a new sheriff on the block, that’ll cost him a $100 fine.

Noah, who’s 7, and his parents, Aviva Luria and Matthew Enjalran (pictured), live at the Westville Village Apartments, a 294-unit apartment complex at 400 Blake St.

The gated community is entering the latest round of attempted rebirth. Built in 2007 on an old factory site in the shadow of West Rock, the original “Wintergreen of Westville” became known as “Animal House” for rowdy student behavior. After it fell into foreclosure, a Long Island real estate company and Singapore’s largest private bank joined forces in 2012 and bought the complex for $41.65 million. The owner, UOB Eagle Rock Multifamily Property Fund LP, also manages the property through an associated company.

Last October, Eagle Rock hired a new property manager, Kevin Reid, to get a handle on long-running noise complaints and clean up the complex. Reid set new expectations for the complex, and raised the fine for violating the rules from $25 to $100. He started fining people for leaving garbage around, for being loud, and for driving their cars the wrong way through a parking-garage exit. Last week, Reid sent an email to tenants announcing that children may not “play, ride bikes, trikes, etc.” in the complex’s inner courtyard. Anyone who did so will face a $100 fine, he wrote.

Luria and Enjalran stopped letting Noah play there. They are protesting the rule, which they believe is illegal.

Noah said he “hates” the new prohibition. “It’s an open space,” he protested. “It’s like, c’mon, why? That’s totally unfair.”

Reid said the ban came in response to four complaints that kids were getting noisy, and getting in the way while wheeling around the courtyard.

“I’m strict and I tick people off,” Reid acknowledged. But “the reason I’m strict is to make this the very best place for everybody.”

In just over seven months, Reid (pictured) has issued tenants nine $100 fines for being noisy, eight $100 fines for failing to send garbage down building’s trash chutes, and eight $100 fines for driving into a one-way exit at the parking garage. And he imposed a 10 p.m. curfew, after which tenants are not allowed to hang out in the courtyard. He said his get-strict mission has made the complex cleaner, quieter and more orderly.

“I’m thrilled with the direction the property has gone in seven-and-a-half short months,” he said.

Meanwhile, Luria and Enjalran plan to move out in August. The couple moved to the complex last June from West Haven to be closer to their jobs at Yale and Southern Connecticut State University, and in search of relief from the stresses of homeownership. They say the threat of being fined for various behaviors—combined with copious emails with capital-letter warnings like, “WE ARE WATCHING”—have created an uncomfortable environment.

“I feel like I live in a prison camp,” said Luria. “It’s supposed to be a luxury apartment complex.”

“I feel as though if I step out of line, I’m going to get shouted at and fined a hundred dollars,” she said.

Rents at the complex range from $1,250 for a one-bedroom to $1,980 for a three-bedroom apartment.

The dispute marks the latest chapter in a continual effort to maintain order, keep apartments occupied, and balance the needs of student tenants and their working neighbors, many of whom have families and high-paying jobs. The original developers got city permission to build the complex by promising to rent upscale apartments to adults. Then, after they had trouble filling leases, they let in a lot of students from Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) and the University of New Haven (UNH). The place became rowdy—so much so that an assistant police chief who moved there quickly moved out.

The complex is now home to a lot of international UNH students, many of them from Saudi Arabia. Professors, doctors and lawyers have also moved in. Reid said he is doing his best to ensure peace for each group by quelling noise from both late-night student parties and daytime children’s play.

New Sheriff In Town

Reid, who has managed properties for 17 years, said he has gained a reputation as a guy who can come in and clean up problem properties. He said when he took the job last October, the level of noise in the complex ranked as a 9 or 10 out of 10.

“People were walking through the hallways at night, laughing, cutting up,” he said. Students would “come home drunk, swearing and yelling and piggy-backing” in common areas. “People were like, ‘I’m trying to sleep!’”

Reid raised the fine for violating the lease from $25 to $100 and sent out lots of emails warning tenants about violating the rules. The emails include lots of capital-letter warnings, such as: “if you continue on the same path that you are on, you WILL be CAUGHT…......you WILL be EVICTED and you WILL be CHARGED with the necessary Fines, Attorney’s Fees and whatever else applies.” Ignoring the emails “IS TO YOUR OWN DETRIMENT AS I AM READY TO START CLEANING HOUSE OF ANY AND ALL PROBLEMS,” Reid warned in another email.

Reid brought in two live-in security guards to handle late-night complaints and fined students for being loud at night. He said his efforts have reduced noise to a 3 out of 10.

Then, last week, he turned his attention to a new type of noise—noise coming from children.

Noah used to play in the courtyard from time to time, throwing around a nerf ball with his mom or dad or riding a (motorless, leg-powered) scooter.

He said he also likes to “squish the little bugs” in the courtyard, the tiny red ones.

Then, on May 27, Reid sent an email to tenants announcing a ban on children playing in the courtyard.

“It has come to Management’s attention that some Residents are taking their Minor Residents onto the Courtyard areas to play, ride bikes, trikes, etc.,” the email reads. “This is not allowed and is considered a Breach Of The Lease Agreement. Also, there is a $100.00 Fine per occurrence as with any Lease Violations.”

“This is very disruptive to the Community as a whole and we must be considerate of each other. There is a park directly across the street which you may take individuals over to play, ride bikes, etc. Also, the Insurance Company will not allow this,” Reid wrote.

Luria bristled at the email.

“This was the first time my husband and I saw anything about this new policy that children cannot play in the courtyard,” she said.

“Grownups get to play here. Why can’t kids?” Noah protested. “Kevin has to work on his equal rights.”

Luria argued that the rule is ill-defined—what does “play” mean?—as well as harsh and possibly illegal. She checked with a lawyer. The lawyer opined that a landlord cannot make such a significant change to a lease without written consent of the tenant.

The lawyer cited Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 47a-9, which states that landlords may amend a lease to introduce a new rule, but “If a rule or regulation that would result in a substantial modification of the terms of the rental agreement is adopted after the tenant enters into the rental agreement, such rule or regulation is not valid unless the tenant consents to such rule or regulation in writing.”

Reid disagreed with the legal opinion.

“It is the Landlord’s right to amend the Lease Agreement whenever necessary,” he wrote in an email. “That has been done and you have been notified in writing of this amendment. The resident does not have to agree. This is an Apartment Community not a Condominium. The rules are set by the Landlord. Again, there is nowhere in the lease that states that it is alright for anyone to ride bikes, trikes, play, etc. in the courtyard area or anywhere in the Community for that matter.”

Reid said he hasn’t issued any fines for scofflaw scooter-riding or any other illicit play.

Besides being possibly illegal, Luria said the new prohibition is unwelcoming to children. She said the complex has lots of children who play peacefully in the courtyard. That’s part of what makes it a good community, she said. One day, she was returning home with her son and saw a group of parents and kids holding some kind of party. It turned out they were celebrating the Muslim holiday Eid. Two kids ran up to her son and offered a plate of food.

“They are nice kids” in the complex, she said. “It’s not a matter of kids throwing rocks at windows.”

When Eagle Rock took over the complex, partner Rishi Gupta told the Independent his company aimed to make the courtyard more “child-friendly” by adding improvements such as a children’s play area, some gazebos, or more benches. Luria said when she moved in, the owners also discussed the potential of adding a playground somewhere on the property.

Reid said Eagle Rock never promised a playground. And he said he has received no other complaints about the courtyard playing ban.

Meanwhile, a couple of tenants frowned on the new restriction.

“I think kids should be allowed to play in the courtyard,” said Jamaal Rehman, a doctor who just moved to the complex a few days prior from New York. He said he doesn’t have kids, but he doesn’t have a problem with kids playing.

“It makes me happy when I see children playing,” said another tenant named Fahd, a student at the University of New Haven. He said he has never been fined by Reid, but his friends have. He finds the rule-enforcement to be overly strict: “If the noise was just a little bit high, he just fined them.”

Reid said he can’t please everybody. He said his stern warnings and strict enforcement has led to compliance: He hasn’t had to fine anyone in two months.

Sgt. Renee Forte, the neighborhood’s top cop, said the complex has been quiet: “I can’t remember the last time I had to handle an issue over there based on noise.”

Meanwhile, Reid has poured in thousands of dollars to renovate the complex. He said his company spent close to $100,000 repainting doors and hallways that had been scuffed up. It’s spending another $30,000 to replace old concrete in the courtyard, which was under way on Wednesday.

And it’s spending $7,000 on new equipment in the complex’s gym.

He said the complex is 99-percent rented, which “speaks volumes” to the satisfaction of the tenants.

“I will say, proudly, that I have more residents who are staying and are thrilled than are moving out.”

Reid said he knows some people may take issue with his decisions, but “everybody has the right to peace and quiet.”

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posted by: robn on June 5, 2014  7:39am

The courtyard will be much better for everybody when nobody uses it. (Honk)

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on June 5, 2014  8:28am

“some Residents are taking their Minor Residents” ... Oh, hooray for bureaucratese.  “Minor Residents.”  In other words, children.

posted by: RaeT on June 5, 2014  8:40am

“He said when he took the job last October, the level of noise in the complex ranked as a 9 or 10 out of 10.”

“He said his efforts have reduced noise to a 3 out of 10.”

I guess he’s using the standard noise-ometer for these measurements. A good thing, as he wouldn’t want to be arbitrary or self-serving. xP

posted by: Bruce Crowder on June 5, 2014  8:49am

This guy sounds like a real piece of work. He is going to come up with some meaningless metric for noise reduction that he can put on his resume for his next"clean-up” job. He clearly doesn’t care at all about the community. What a horrible, depressing place this must be. I can understand the need to address rowdy student behaviors, but imposing fines for children playing is just plain mean. I have some choice words for Mr. Reid that cannot be printed here. I hope the family with the child follows through with a lawsuit.

posted by: OldMomYoungChild on June 5, 2014  9:54am

This manager lives in a fantasy world of his own making, in which residents are “thrilled” to live there, noise has been reduced from a “9” to a “3,” and laws don’t matter. Reality seems to morph into something else entirely the moment you step onto this property.

posted by: Paul Wessel on June 5, 2014  10:37am

Let me know when the Critical Mass ride to the courtyard is scheduled.  We can go visit our friend Noah and invite him to ride in the courtyard with us.  We can pass the hat (helmet?) and pay the $100 fine on the way out - as long as they give us a receipt!

posted by: Threefifths on June 5, 2014  11:20am

Meanwhile, Luria and Enjalran plan to move out in August. The couple moved to the complex last June from West Haven to be closer to their jobs at Yale and Southern Connecticut State University, and in search of relief from the stresses of homeownership. They say the threat of being fined for various behaviors—combined with copious emails with capital-letter warnings like, “WE ARE WATCHING”—have created an uncomfortable environment.

They will not be the only ones moving out.Like I said the The Gentrification Vampires are coming.Notice Meanwhile, Reid has poured in thousands of dollars to renovate the complex. He said his company spent close to $100,000 repainting doors and hallways that had been scuffed up. It’s spending another $30,000 to replace old concrete in the courtyard, which was under way on Wednesday.
Rents at the complex range from $1,250 for a one-bedroom to $1,980 for a three-bedroom apartment.

You Rent a apartment for a low price. Over time, the area becomes much more affluent, and they begin raising prices as people are willing to pay more. Every time your lease goes up, your rent is increased until it’s too expensive Start looking for the rents to go up.Keep sleeping New Haven.

posted by: JMS on June 5, 2014  1:00pm

Paul Wessel,

Excellent idea. Make sure all bikes have bells on handlebars.

JMS

posted by: Shaggybob on June 5, 2014  1:07pm

There’s a point where practicality meets reality and he just crossed it.

Sounds like this Reniassance Management could really use this guy to help cleanup some of their issues with renter’s. Although I don’t think those residents would take to kindly to it (lol)

posted by: Hill Resident on June 6, 2014  1:10pm

I live on a street where there are many children playing outside and they do make a lot of noise. But compared to the loud car stereos, dirt bikes, and people yelling, the sound of children playing is one I don’t mind. But there may be residents who prefer or need the quiet (residents whose windows are off the courtyard, who may be ill or work nights). Mr. Reid is the Property Manager not the owner. The residents should meet with him and have him bring their concerns to the owner. There may be room for compromise. He does seem to be doing a pretty good job overall, just maybe getting a bit too restrictive about children’s play.

posted by: Bob8454 on June 6, 2014  1:28pm

I don’t live at this complex, but after reading the article
I felt compelled to write just a few thoughts regarding the
professionalism never mine the fact of how utterly rude
and disrespectful he is to the tenants.  I realize that even
a pancake has two sides but if in fact he has been doing
this type of work for as many years as he claims, you would
think that he would know how to treat people
respectfully and with professionalism.  He sounds like a BULLY
(In computer language that’s called “upper case” and
indicates that you are yelling).  Who does this guy think he
is that he can speak to the very people that help
pay his salary, in such a manner.  I for one would
never, move to this complex and subject myself to being
treated in such an unprofessional way. His employer must
be thrilled at his behavior and having the complex betrayed in
such a negative way.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on June 6, 2014  8:15pm

The options for living in relative peace and quiet shouldn’t be “the suburbs or nothing”, which is frequently the sentiment I hear when I complain about the pointless noise I’m constantly bombarded by from modified cars, car stereos, and various configurations of motorized bikes.  This guy might have just found his niche: peace and quiet in New Haven, about $1500 a month.

posted by: Belicia on June 9, 2014  7:37am

We have lived at Westville since 2010, prior to Mr. Reid assuming management of the property.  We have seen the best and worst of residing here.  We have seen college students vomit in hallways, outside building front doors, parking lots and outside our apartment. Noise from the courtyard made it impossible to leave windows opens in order to enjoy the fresh air.  There has been car and property vandalism, personal property was stolen, such as bikes that were locked.  Individuals indecently exposed themselves in public. Tenants ignored the rules such as picking up after your pet, noise levels, and dumping trash in the shoots located on each floor.  Many tenants who we became friends with moved out due to the noise, partying, and simple disrespect for fellow tenants.  Additionally, the police officers were constantly called to the property for various offenses.  Since Mr. Reid’s arrival, the quality of life has drastically improved here at Westville.  The measures taken by Mr. Reid are greatly appreciated and my family supports all the changes and rules he has enforced to create a safe, quiet, comfortable, quality of life.  The increase in tenant retention speaks volumes regarding the positive changes within this community. Everyone makes a decision regarding where they want to live based on their perception of the community.  Since Mr. Reid has taken over, there has been a drastic improvement of safety, noise control, cleanliness and quality of life at Westville.  Not all tenants have children or pets both of which are not allowed on the courtyard. However, as for playing on the courtyard I agree with limiting children play, because there is a large park across from the property that many tenants and their children use.

posted by: RaeT on June 9, 2014  11:27am

Belicia, I’m not sure why you would choose to live in an environment like that, with college students throwing up in the hallway, etc. Most people would have moved out but you stayed, despite your statement, “Everyone makes a decision regarding where they want to live based on their perception of the community.” Strange. In any case, we moved in in the spring of 2013, long before Kevin Reid started in October, and none of that was not going on, so he can’t be credited with stopping all that horrible behaviour.

You also said: “The increase in tenant retention speaks volumes regarding the positive changes within this community.” What gives you the idea there’s been an “increase in tenant retention”? As a tenant, I’m just not privy to that information. I wonder how you are?

And then you said: “Not all tenants have children or pets both of which are not allowed on the courtyard.” Really? That’s news to me. I know children are no longer allowed to PLAY in the courtyard, but I had no idea they weren’t even allowed to enter the courtyard. Wow. When did that happen?

posted by: Belicia on June 10, 2014  11:46am

Thank you Rae for the opportunity to clarify for you my comment. I chose to reside at westville based on their amenities and proximity to both Quinnipiac university and southern University. I perceived this environment as one of location and convenience. Your experience is different than mine and I am happy you had a pleasant one, however, the statements I made is factual and was reported to the previous management. In our experience, the issues were not addressed efficiently. As a tenant obligated to a lease and rules of this environment, appropriate steps were taken by Mr. Reid and many of those issues were immediately addressed. So in my opinon and based on my xperience with both management companies, he is to be credited with improving the quality of life at Westville.

In terms of retention rates at Westville my source of information is confidential. However, should you call the property, as new tennants do, you are informed of what’s available and what isn’t. This is a strategy marketing companies use to assess fair market prices and competitors standing in order to establish a plan to be competitive in their target market. Based on previous and current inquiries, there has been an increase in occupancy of approximately 85% since the last management company to 98% since Mr. Reid took over.

Finally, thank you for showing me that if my words are not specific they can be misinterpreted. You are correct. So to clarify my statement, dogs are part of a persons family, to some extent, they are like children to families without children. They are not allowed on the courtyard with their caregivers, eventhough a pet rent is paid, in order to allow tenants, without pets, to enjoy their quality of life. A guideline of limitations should be applied to children so tenants, without children, can enjoy their quality of life at Westville. I did not intend to infer children are not allowed to enter the court yard. I hope this statement provides more clarity and less flaws.

posted by: RaeT on June 10, 2014  1:42pm

Belicia, my main point was that the noise and behaviour you refer to stopped long before Kevin Reid started managing the place. I know because I moved in five or six months before he started.

I still think it’s a little strange that you can cite specific retention numbers for the property and even odder that you would say that your source is “confidential.”

Lastly, children and pets are not equivalent. Children are PEOPLE and they have rights. Whether or not you personally agree with this new policy, it happens to be discriminatory against children and families.

I also think it’s odd that you talk about “your family” living there, implying that you have children, and yet talk about children and pets as though they should be viewed and treated in the same ways. I don’t know many mothers who would do so. (To be clear, I’m referring to mothers of children, NOT pets.)

posted by: Belicia on June 10, 2014  2:59pm

RaeT, as these commentaries can go back and forth and not be resolved, I am choosing to answer your last post and discontinue the conversation. We both have had very different experiences at Westville. I will agree to disagree with your view. You were here approximately 1 year, I have been here 4 years and counting. The issues my family dealt with were not resolved until Mr. Reid arrived as I mentioned before. If your challenges were resolved prior to that, again that is great for you.

Second, it appears you find many things strange, so as I have already explained how my data was acquired there is no need to address that issue any further.

Yes pets are not children, which suggest you missed my point.  However, children are subjected to societal rules which facilitates cohesiveness in a community.  Rules also fosters a good quality of life and protects children and adults from harm.  In my view this article and the extent to which this issue has evolved is obscene.  Any and all rules can be observed as discriminatory based on the perception of the individual and their cultural background. As evidenced by comments on this article, individuals can take words and twist them around to contribute to chaos.

You can feel free to infer what you wish regarding my family, however, my family is not the issue, the issue is simply rules are implemented to protect the masses of a community or society.  Rules will not make all parties happy, however, a respectful conversation can make a difference in modifying rules and generating cohesiveness versus causing chaos.  Which many seem to prefer. Hence this article.  With respect, feel free to respond to this post, as I will not be responding to yours, I will allow you the last word whatever it may be. Good wishes to you and your family.

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