The Maple Leaf Park condominium development in Brick Township’s Herbertsville section is home to drugs, prostitution, deadbeat landlords and a steady stream of late-night partying and loitering, a resident of the complex told the Brick Township Council at a meeting Tuesday night.
James Cancel told the township’s governing body that he bought a condominium in Maple Leaf Park years ago to raise his sons as a single father, and has seen the neighborhood steadily decline ever since, part of a plea for help from township officials to step up code enforcement and anti-crime efforts there.
“My board, and the management company is shielding these people,” Cancel said. “There is major noncompliance here.”
Cancel’s bleak description of the crime-plagued condominium complex is one that has been far from a secret in Brick, but is rarely discussed. Decrying “slum landlords,” Cancel said 70 percent of the complex is rented, many to Section 8 tenants who do not take care of the property and engage in criminal activities.
“Landlords fly under the radar here,” he said, describing one rental apartment near his that is rife with bed bugs and cockroaches.
Cancel decided to bring his story before the township council after he said he’s had no progress with the complex’s management company. His request: stepped-up enforcement of township regulations requiring rental certificates of occupancy in units, more attention from township code enforcement officers and more intensive policing of the area.
Cancel’s son, Steven, said he left to join the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004 when some neighboring residents were using crack. He returned in 2008 and problems had only gotten worse, he said.
“When I came back in 2008, there were prostitutes … now there’s drug dealing,” Steven Cancel said. “If this were Camden or Asbury Park, I wouldn’t be standing here. But Brick is a nice place. It’s ridiculously fixable. There are people form this side of town whose kids go to school across the street [at Brick Township High School] who say, ‘I’m glad my kid goes here instead of Memorial.’ That all comes from Maple Leaf Park.”
The Cancels were joined by other residents of Maple Leaf Park who did not speak publicly. Township council members said they would discuss the issue of code enforcement and policing at the next meeting of the council’s Public Safety Committee.
“Thank you for your courage in speaking out against this and for caring about the community you live in,” said Councilwoman Andrea Zapcic, pledging to schedule a meeting to look into the issue further.
“Maybe there is something we can do to help the police department better police that area and make it a safer place for you and your family,” said Council President Susan Lydecker.
In 2012, the township organized meetings with residents of Maple Leaf Park that included police chief Nils R. Bergquist and members of the previous governing body to discuss similar concerns. After Tuesday night’s meeting, Bergquist said efforts to organize a neighborhood watch program in the development did not pan out – nobody signed up to volunteer.
“We spend a lot of resources in Maple Leaf Park, and we will continue to spend a lot of resources in Maple Leaf Park,” Bergquist said, adding that he would be speaking with the committee of council members and the township attorney to take a fresh look at ordinances and what could be done to improve the situation.
The 359 unit complex, off Herbertsville Road, has been a source of crime issues for years in Brick, along with other condominium complexes in the area. In 2005, the leader of the Philadelphia Latin Kings, William Sosa, then 25, was arrested in nearby Sutton Village, off Lanes Mill Road.
“There are little kids running around as lookouts,” said Steven Cancel. “This is what’s going on. Are you going to tolerate this?”