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Hoboken Housing Authority Weighing Large-Scale Overhaul

A plan to overhaul the HHA was presented to the board on Thursday night; executive director called many of the current buildings "obsolete."

The Hoboken Housing Authority is considering a new plan for its buildings, with the goal of completely transforming the way affordable housing units fit into the city.

Architects and financial advisers at Thursday night’s HHA meeting and presented a detailed account of what the housing area would look like. 

A complete overhaul of the Housing Authority is necessary, said HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia, because many of the current buildings are “obsolete.”  

“We don’t have the money to replace every roof, every elavator,” Garcia said. 

The 1950s buildings in the area around Mama Johnson Field, house 808 units. The buildings are built on a different grid than the rest of Hoboken. When walking west on Third Street, Marchetto said, the Housing Authority is clearly very different from the rest of Hoboken.

The goal of the plan —labeled the Vision 20/20 plan —Marchetto said, is to have the housing authority blend in with the rest of Hoboken. 

“(The buildings) cannot meet the current safety codes,” said architect Dean Marchetto, who presented the plan to the board on Thursday night. Moreover, the buildings “can never be brought up to code,” added Marchetto, who works for architecture firm Marchatto, Higgins, Stieve.  

In many buildings, stairways and elevators are too narrow; some buildings have only one stairwell as opposed to the required two, experts said. 

The Vision 20/20 plan will consist of ten phases, according to Robert Powell, a financial adviser to the HHA board. The first phase that was proposed, is to build a new residential building for low income housing on the parking lot of the Monroe Street senior building. 

Erecting a new building will cost approximately $8 million, Powell said. The HHA can apply for a special tax credits that would pay for $7 million of it. The remaining $1 million will by financed by the HHA in the form of a mortgage.

The new building would add 32 new units to the HHA. Currently the waiting list is 794 people long, Garcia said.

In order to apply for the low income tax credit program that would pay for about 80 percent of the first phase of the plan, the HHA has to submit an application to the state’s Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency by November.

The entire plan—with its total of ten phases—Powell said, will be at least $175 million. All the different phases of the plan will have to be funded with the help of tax credits or other funding opportunities. While initially the plan was to have a new housing authority by the year 2020, it will likely take longer. If the HHA starts with phase one as soon as this fall, the first new building could be ready for its inhabitants by 2015.

That lot is currently the only place to build a new building without displacing anybody, Garcia said. 

“I don’t know if I believe that,” Councilman and HHA Commissioner David Mello said in a phone conversation following the meeting. Mello added he would have liked to see “more options.” When asked which location would be better in the current housing authority area, he said he didn’t know without input from professional architects.

Under the Vision 20/20 plan, the blocks in the housing authority region would be as densely populated as the rest of Hoboken. The goal is to complete the project without any displacement.

Mello said he “may or may not” support the first phase, but would not support as many as 1600 apartments in the Housing Authority area (right now there are about 800 units). The density of the rest of Hoboken, Mello said, is not condusive to families with two or three children, of which there are many in the Housing Authority.

“If we’re not putting more units,” former HHA commissioner and Hoboken resident Perry Belfiore said, “where are you putting the people?” 

“Where are you going to put us?” one resident from the audience asked the board. “We have nowhere to go.”

The current housing authority buildings are inefficient and prevent any upward mobility, Garcia said. The only type of housing available in the HHA is low income. Vision 20/20 is supposed to offer middle-income housing as well, for those tenants who can leave the HHA. Currently, there is no other place to go in Hoboken for those tenants.

Ultimately, the decision to build new residences and change the entire area is up to the Authority as well as the city’s zoning board. A HHA subcommittee will be formed to review the plan within 30 days.

Hobbs July 13, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Didn't former HHA Commisioner and still City Councilman Michael Russo brag in his FBI corruption video with Solomon Dwek, that he got a guy an apartment and then was ticked off that he didn't pay back the favor by working for his campaign ? :-)
puzzledone July 13, 2012 at 06:42 PM
If I have to be the one to say it, I will. Noone wants to be the ones living in a mixed income community, just look at the discount that units on the East side of Jackson are forced to take. While the merchants try to sell it as a pleasant mixed environment, I have seen these developments fail as quickly as they try. While buildings need to make affordable units available, they work hard to target these to the elderly and city workers, rather than let the typical HHA residents move in. What you end up getting is a failed gentrification, a transient community of mid-income and a failure on all counts. I'm not saying I like the system, I'm just saying this is the system.
nice try July 13, 2012 at 07:04 PM
These questions and the need for scrutiny of this proposal (and the overall HHA financials) are precisely why the new reform majority is so well-timed. The development as proposed is massive. It's hard to believe our already strained City infrastructure could handle this scale of development on the west side where flooding remains a problem among other considerations like open space needs. When does this (or has it already) gone before the City zoning and planning boards? And how does this fit with the City's Master Plan?
nice try July 13, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Yes, Old Guard families like the Russos who enjoy low cost middle income housing while raking in the $$$ in relator commissions and owning a family shore property which was valued at $400K in 2001. http://russocorruption.com/index.html#Family
nice try July 13, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Yes indeed. Russo bragged that he got him (Hector Claveria) an apartment, kept him from being evicted when he fell behind on his rent, and got him a seat on the HHA too: COUNCILMAN RUSSO: We got a guy appointed to the Housing Authority, literally, two months ago. MR. DWEK: Yeah. COUNCILMAN RUSSO: So I go to him, right, during the whole campaign, when it started. The guy's name is Hector. I said Hector. He says what? I did this for you, I need you out there working when I can't do it. You can't what? You know, I can't be -- well, I don't -- I said Hector, let me explain to you how this works. I said, I did for you, you do for me. MR. DWEK: One hand -- one hand washes the other. COUNCILMAN RUSSO: I said -- MR. DWEK: Don't be stupid. COUNCILMAN RUSSO: -- what are we doing here? I said, I mean, is this a joke? He's like, no, no, really, I can't. I said, you know what Hector, good luck on the Housing Authority. I wish you the best. Don't come to me. MR. DWEK: Your appointment. COUNCILMAN RUSSO: I got him his apartment in Hoboken. MR. DWEK: They forget. COUNCILMAN RUSSO: He was late on his rent four months in a fuckin' row. I made sure he wasn't evicted. MR. DWEK: Didn't evict him. COUNCILMAN RUSSO: Yeah. I got him appointed to the Housing Authority. I did a thousand things for this guy. MR. DWEK: Now it's time to boot him. COUNCILMAN RUSSO: Right up my ass. Yeah. Hector, God bless you. http://www.hobokennj.org/docs/mayor/Transcripts-Russo-Dwek.PDF p.84-85
nice try July 13, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Hector Claveria was later arrested in 2009 for allegedly accepting bribes (to help someone on the wait list obtain an apartment) while he was an HHA Commissioner http://www.nj.com/hobokennow/index.ssf/2009/07/hector_claveria_pleads_not_gui.html
peterbelfiore July 13, 2012 at 07:37 PM
No Forde, You miss the point. Most of the building you mention are populate by most of the original occupants. Applied Housing, which as you know, was built with tax credits and was the largest landlord of Affordable Housing, but starting 6 years ago vacant apartment are rent at market rate. So if the average density of Hoboken will be matched with the addition of Moderate income Housing , at no cost to the city, what is the problem. Perry
peterbelfiore July 13, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Nice Try, My friend Hector was appointed to the HHA on a motion by Dawn Zimmer and a second by Peter Cunningham. Hector was lauded by Dawn as she voted for him. Perry
FAP July 13, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Perry can you tell us where you got the stats that say most of the people in Church Towers are original occupants? Councilman Mike Russo certainly didn't have a lease when the building opened. . I'm very curious on where you found the numbers.
rtrux July 13, 2012 at 08:04 PM
if true, why was mike russo telling that story? are you calling russo a liar?
peterbelfiore July 13, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Forde, go visit the buildings yourself. Why are you so against building affordable housing? Rtux I was at the meeting when Dawn nominated Hector. Are you saying Dawn didn't nominate Hector. Perry
Redrider765 July 13, 2012 at 08:17 PM
The problem is nobody trusts how the HHA has been run or the solution you are so urgently trying to ram down our throats. We want to see the HHA finances scrutinized, management scrutinized and every rock looked under before we start making plans to build anything b/c quite honestly, something fishy is going on w/ this whole stinky deal that so suddenly now that reformers are in charge of the HHA you folks are so desperate to push through. Time to put the breaks on until the new HHA board chairman has shined a spotlight on the HHA. And Perry, what is the problem w/ a reform minded HHA board shining a spotlight on things and why are you unwilling to let them have the time they need to do a full accounting of what is going on at the HHA and what its needs are? Is there some specific reason you feel the need to ram this down everyone's throats now?
Hoboken1653 July 13, 2012 at 08:19 PM
So Hector got caught up taking a bribe after he dissed Russo? What an "Amazing Hoboken Coincidence"
doorway July 13, 2012 at 08:25 PM
i doubt applied or marine view or church or clock towers take any vouchers.....maybe at one time years ago.... applied is done with most of the pilots and are phasing those apt out to market rate.... as i remember applied only took work force ...not low or vouchers. The only place i believe federal hud vouchers are ....are in the project area or private homes if they accept them.... again is is cheaper to buy a bldg and transfer those people into a safe bldg and just knock the area down....make a park for everyone.
nice try July 13, 2012 at 08:33 PM
It's not about who nominated or voted for Claveria. It's about a culture of corruption at the HHA as described Councilman Russo (when he was an HHA Commissioner) in his FBI recorded conversation with Dwek.
mcgato July 13, 2012 at 08:40 PM
According to online sources, Church Towers was built in the mid 1960s. So if most of the residents are original to the building, it should be an old folks home at this point. I think what Perry probably meant is that most of the Church Towers residents are family, friends, or associates of the original residents of Church Towers. "You do for me, I do for you."
nice try July 13, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Great question. How did Councilman Russo get that apartment when the wait list for Church Towers was closed in 1983? Councilman Russo didn't have a straight forward explanation as to how he jumped to the front of the wait list when asked by the Hoboken Reporter in 2009. http://www.hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/1864475/article-Church-Towers-rents-could-rise-Council-will-hold-off-on-tax-abatement-renewal-until-owners-discuss-
Hobbs July 13, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Half truth Belfiore at it again As Perry Belfiore knows Hector and his wife were working alongside him as he worked to put Peter Cammerano into the mayors office. Something went wrong in OLD GUARD land and Carmelo Garcia turned Hector in for taking money, Peter Cammerano threw his campaign worker under the bus first chance he had and bragged he wouldn't stand for that sort people taking bribes on his watch' As faith would have it that all happened just weeks before Mayor Cammerano was hauled off in cuffs by the FBI for taking money. Always remember that there are more gray areas to OLD GUARD political operative Perry Belfiore than just on the top of his head. :-)
Outofcontrol July 13, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Face it, the new guard won't want to spend a penny on anything that will improve the living standards of thos living in the HHA. For their convenience, they will blame the old guard for their opposition while masking their true disdain for the residents of the HHA and all things Hoboken prior to the invasion of us newcomers. How many times have you heard from your friends that "my realtor told me that the projects will be torn down soon"? Of course the Zimmer Zombies won't support any plan that leaves low income housing in Hoboken. But if someone comes up with a plan to level the projects and replace them with a park, they'll be giddy squeals of joy coming from the Zombies.
rtrux July 14, 2012 at 01:13 AM
no, you are probably right. i'm just saying your story is 180 degrees from mike russo's tale of the (fbi) tapes. why did he have a very different, long, detailed story?
rtrux July 14, 2012 at 01:16 AM
dumbest statement of the week (month? year?) the goal is to have an upgrade done right, without corruption. an upgrade helps everyone's property values, of course we all want a better hha environment. what the hell is wrong with you? what a nasty, ridiculous accusation.
uggh July 14, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Why are there so few minority residents in marine view or church square towers. Hispanics and African americans have lived in hoboken for decades. Why are they so poorly represented in these buildings?
Hobbs July 14, 2012 at 02:58 AM
NOPE. But you know that. You feel the need to keep up the drumbeat of hatered because bottom line that is all have left.
Hobbs July 14, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Perry your half truths lf truths have become whole lies. "Have you no sense of decency sir ? At long last, have you left no sense of decency ?"
Redrider765 July 14, 2012 at 03:24 AM
You really are crazy. The plan your people put forward is exactly that, tearing down the projects. People like me would rather just renovate them and keep them in town unless someone trustworthy can come up w/ a darn good reason why some other alternative should be pursued.
Sharky1 July 14, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Zimmer Zombies squealing on all the websites everyday for last 3 years. WILL ONLY GET WORSE.
Hobbs July 14, 2012 at 12:59 PM
NOPE. But yo know that already. You feel the need to keep up the out of control drumbeat of hatred because bottom line is that is all you have left.
KenOn10 July 14, 2012 at 01:30 PM
the old guard should be commended for improving the living standards in the HHA.... $40 on election day shows they really care about the HHA folks.
rtrux July 14, 2012 at 07:56 PM
didn't take first time, let me try this again... ooc: dumbest comment of the week (month? year?) the goal is to have a housing upgrade, however that might be, done right and without corruption. if it means starting over from scratch, so be it. of course everyone wants upgraded haa properties because it will be both better for residents AND it will help everyone's property values. what the hell is wrong with you, why would reformers be against improved living conditions?? what a ridiculous, nasty, cynical, divisive comment. you should be ashamed of yourself.
rtrux July 15, 2012 at 02:40 PM
stil have two rather straightforward comments "pending approval", one from friday and the other from yesterday. really? that seems pretty extreme, considering the bile that gets posted here regularly.

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