HUD review slams Hoboken Housing Authority procurement practices; Garcia blames board, others for issues
HOBOKEN—A review of the procurement practices by the Hoboken Housing Authority under former Executive Director Carmelo Garcia was completed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds and oversees the agency. Copies of the review were released by HHA Board Chairwoman Dana Wefer on Thursday.
The review criticizes the Authority for a lack of required documentation surrounding the eight randomly selected contracts it examined. It also questions the use of emergency solicitations to award large contracts without going out to bid.
The review was conducted by members of HUD’s New Jersey public housing office on the week of July 28 under the supervision of office director Sonia Burgos.
The most critical section of the report dealt with emergency contracts awarded to Haddad Electrical and All Risk after Superstorm Sandy.
“Even after 18 months later,” the review stated, “HHA have been using these same contractors on an as needed bases [sic] by way of purchase orders. It appears that by issuing these purchase orders, HHA has circumvented the bidding process.”
Overall, the review said, the Authority had engaged in over $3 million of “unjustified non-competitive procurement.”
In a statement released Thursday, Wefer emphasized that “these findings are just for the eight files HUD sampled. Extrapolating this data to the whole of the HHA lays bare how dire the situation is.”
In an email to the Hoboken Reporter, Garcia stridently defended himself, saying that the Authority’s lack of record-keeping resulted in part from the non-cooperation of a board that opposed and ultimately fired him.
“What the Chairwoman fails to admit is that between the two devastating Natural Disasters & the board's lack of support,” wrote Garcia, “their obstructionism for the last two years created these situations.”
Garcia said some of the missing information had been present, but in a different format than HUD wanted. He suggested that any Housing Authority in the state of New Jersey would have displayed the same lack of documentation, given the level of scrutiny involved in HUD technical reviews.
Garcia said other documents were lost or misplaced when the HHA main office flooded during Sandy.
Garcia also placed some of the blame on one of his financial officers, under whose purview procurement record-keeping falls.
In an email to the Reporiter, HHA Resident Advisory Board President Barbara Reyes echoed Garcia’s statements.
She noted that the HHA “also went through ‘Sequestration’ which affected every and all entities who received federal funding and ended up operating on 25-30 percent less monies of what they received prior to sequestration.”
As a result of the review, HUD has imposed a zero dollar threshold on the agency, meaning that it must approve every service contract procured by the HHA. HHA must also complete a Corrective Action Plan to address its procurement issues within 30 days.
In addition, Burgos mentioned that all Commissioners “must complete the state required training courses” required upon beginning their term on the board. She suggested that the board receive extra training in procurement rules in light of the review.
Hoboken named finalist for best downtown People’s Choice Award
Hoboken has been selected as a finalist for the 2014 People’s Choice Award for best downtown given by the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association, the city announced Friday. The winner will be selected through a poll on the American Planning Association website, in which the city encourages members of the public to vote.
The mile-square city is competing to be named the best downtown in Northern New Jersey. The other three finalists in that category are historic downtown Jersey City, Montclair Center, and Downtown Morristown.
“Hoboken has become the fastest-growing city in New Jersey because people want to live in vibrant, walkable, transit-rich communities,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “We’re honored to be a finalist in this competition to recognize the great downtowns in New Jersey.”
If Hoboken wins, it would not be the first time the city has received plaudits from the American Planning Association. In 2010, Washington Street was named a Great Street, and last year, Hoboken’s South Waterfront was named a Great Place in New Jersey.
According to the Planning Association website, Hoboken was nominated by someone with the initials A.P. and selected as a finalist by a panel of planning professionals.
The nomination summed up the appeal of Hoboken thusly: “Incredibly walkable -very large number of shops, outdoor cafes, bars -great waterfront parks and walkways with the best views of New York . . .”
The online poll is open until Sept. 26 and can be located at www.njplanning.org/news/peoples-choice-awards. Participants can only vote once.
Hoboken home to largest multi-family dwelling sale in North Jersey this year
JP Morgan Chase’s purchase of an apartment complex in Hoboken in June was the largest sale of a multifamily dwelling in Hudson County so far this year, according to NorthJersey.com. On June 9, JP Morgan spent $125.5 million to buy the Curling Club Apartments at 1130-1133 Grand St., according to a report by commercial real estate company Massey Knakal Realty Services.
In fact, according to Massey Knakal, the Curling Club purchase was the second largest multi-family real estate purchase in New Jersey this year after a $136 million deal for an apartment building in Pine Brook, Morris County.
According to NorthJersey.com, the Curling Club Apartments consist of “four five-story residential buildings…[and] a free-standing, single-story clubhouse” that fill a whole block at Eleventh and Grand Streets in northwest Hoboken. They were built in 1999.
Man dies in fall from Garden Street apartment building
A 41-year-old man fell to his death from the roof of a building on Garden Street on the morning of Aug. 12, according to Sgt. Anthony Falco of the Hoboken Police Department. Falco identified the man as Oengus Timpson.
The building Timpson fell from was the residence of his wife and child. Falco said Timpson used to live with them on Garden Street between First and Second Streets but had recently separated from his wife and was not residing there.
The incident occurred at 5:30 a.m. on the 12th.
When police and a team from the Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps arrived on the scene, Timpson was already dead.
The website of Scotto Funeral Home in Brooklyn advertised a visiting for an Oengus Joshua Timpson on Aug. 18, followed by a mass of Christian burial at St. Mary Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church in Far Rockaway the next day.