Michael Fonti – Sex offender’s neighbors Fight Back – withhold rent

HILLCREST – Residents at an apartment complex for the disabled say they are going to withhold rent until a registered sex offender is evicted.

“I’m not going to pay one dime, not one penny,” resident Stephanie Soto said yesterday afternoon. “We pay to be safe in our homes. There’s no way we’re going to pay rent for our lives to be in danger.”

Arco Management, the company that runs Eckerson Village, has said in recent weeks that a background check of Michael Fonti by a third-party company failed to reveal his past.

Fonti is a Level 3 sex offender who served prison time after being convicted of abusing a boy.

By law, all permanent registrants on the national and state sex-offender registries are prohibited from living in any properties funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Eckerson Village is such a property.

Fonti – who, like most of the residents of the 23 units, uses a wheelchair – said he just wants to be allowed to live in peace.

“I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m paying the rent,” he said yesterday. “Just let me be, man. I’m not going to bother anyone whatsoever. I promise you that. I promise everybody that.”

But some residents aren’t convinced. In fact, they say that Fonti created a disturbance Saturday night at the complex and that he yelled obscenities and slurs at them.

Fonti yesterday denied the allegation, saying instead that he had been yelling and screaming at his girlfriend because “she was being an idiot.”

Ramapo police confirm they were on the scene for a call involving Fonti but didn’t immediately have details. No arrests were made.

Yesterday, Soto and neighbors Joe Page and Barbara Mangam said they weren’t going to pay any rent to Arco until Fonti was out. They planned to circulate a petition asking other tenants to follow suit.

Mangam, who has lived in Eckerson Village for more than 20 years, said that the entire community should be concerned.

“25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years”

………Sarah Tofte

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