A resolution to award a contract to a developer to build low-income housing in Hoboken caused friction at the Hoboken Housing Authority meeting on Thursday night. The HHA is the federally funded agency that oversees Hoboken’s low-income public housing on the west side of town.
The proposed development, which would is to be located at 333 Harrison St. and include 44 units, is the first phase of the Vision 20/20 project, a plan in the works to revitalize Hoboken’s projects.
At Thursday night’s monthly HHA meeting, some board members wanted to table the contract, at least until a sub-committee meeting could be held. But others said waiting could result in a loss of funding.
Specific funding has been provided for phase I construction, including RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) funding, as well as emergency Sandy funding. The RAD funding, if not used by the end of May, could be lost.
After a heated hour during which residents urged the board to vote in favor of the contract, all board members voted for the resolution except HHA Chairman Jake Stuiver, who was telecommunicating by phone from Pennsylvania, where he recently moved. (Board member Judy Burrell was absent). Stuiver is allowed to remain on the board until the appointing authority (City Council) selects a replacement. Stuiver is part of the board majority allied with Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Dr. Robert Powell, a consultant for Nassau Capital Advisors, was hired by the HHA to choose the most qualified developer for those submitting their qualifications. Powell spoke to the housing board, advising them of the three front-running bidders out of nine who applied. Powell recommended RPM Development LLC of Montclair.
HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia said, “We have done our due diligence and invested countless hours just trying to get this right for the board and for our residents.”
Still, some board members, like David Mello, who is also a Zimmer-allied councilperson, spoke of delaying the process until a subcommittee meeting could be held.
“The fact that it took a little longer,” said Powell, “meant we drilled it down further. We will get a better deal with the firm we picked assuming we make a decision tonight. But if you don’t feel comfortable with us working hard with this firm right away, then don’t do it.”
“Your reluctance is coming across as political.” – Perry Belfiore
“Some people have been muttering in the crowd,” said Mello. “I am very much not against the project or the location.” Mello said he was instrumental in picking out the location.
A resident who wished to remain anonymous said, “I need for you to think, commissioners. Do what it is right. You all have to answer to the one up there [meaning God].”
Hoboken resident Perry Belfiore said, “Your reluctance is coming across as political. Maybe it’s not. But it looks like no new units will be built in Hoboken until the next mayoral election. No units have been built in three years. Take the leap of faith, be the first commissioner to be a part of this success.”
The resolution finally passed, with Stuiver’s vote by phone being the only “no” vote.
“I am going to vote yes,” said board member Greg Lincoln. “The most compelling argument is the funding.”
“I am going to echo [Lincoln’s] comment,” said David Mello.
Holding over in Pa.
Though his term is up in May, Stuiver moved out of state last month for personal reasons. The HHA found that there was no residency requirement for the seat.
Hoboken resident and activist Patricia Waiters said Thursday during the public portion of the meeting that she has made her intent known to the City Council that she wants to apply for the soon-to-be vacant seat.
However, by phone, Stuiver told Waiters that procedurally, he will be kept on as a hold-over until the City Council votes for a new commissioner.
Waiters said, while walking away from the podium, “Let someone here do the job, not someone who has to drive three hours.”
The City Council will have to vote for a replacement for Stuiver. The council is divided into a pro- and anti-Zimmer faction, so that vote may wind up deadlocked.
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residents file lawsuit to stop Garcia from running for Assembly
Earlier this month, it was announced that Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Carmelo Garcia would run for state Assembly on a legislative ticket with incumbent State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
Garcia has said that he believes he can do the full-time paid job of executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority at the same time as serving as a part-time as state legislator.
But Thursday morning, a group of Hoboken residents announced a legal challenge to Garcia's candidacy.
In a statement emailed to the press on Thursday, they said:
"We are concerned that Mr. Garcia, who will earn $172,500.00 in 2014 as HHA’s Executive Director, cannot adequately fulfill his duties to the residents of the Housing Authority as full time Executive Director while also effectively representing the 33rd District’s residents in Trenton as an Assemblyman, where he will earn an additional public salary of $49,000.00. We deserve competent, vigorous and focused representation, not public officials who double-dip, padding their public salaries, pensions and benefits.
"The law and public policy are clear: Executive Directors of federally funded programs, such as housing authorities, should not be permitted to run for partisan public office because of the inherent conflicts of interest that arise from running a federal program and serving as a partisan elected official. Mr. Garcia should not be permitted to exploit a perceived loophole in the law for his personal and financial gain. We respectfully ask this Court to enter an Order declaring Mr. Garcia ineligible to run for partisan elected office."
The statement to the court was signed by Hoboken residents Jerome Abernathy, James Castiglione, Avi Ohring, Sheilah Scully, and Vasudev Trivedi. They are not elected municipal officials or members of the housing board.
Garcia said recently that he can legally run for the office. He said that his job is not 100 percent federally funded, and thus, being an assemblyman at the same time would not violate the Hatch Act.
Stack’s spokesman Mark Albiez declined to comment on Friday.