Renovating the projects
Hoboken’s low-income housing will see major upgrades
by Ray Smith
Reporter staff writer
Aug 22, 2010 | 4858 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OPEN FOR BUSINESS – Members of the Hoboken Housing Authority officially open the Andrew Jackson Gardens Community Room, one of many renovations on the way.
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Residents of Hoboken’s federally-funded housing projects had much to celebrate besides two newly renovated community rooms last week. Those rooms were among approximately 12 improvements that will be made to the projects in the next five years using recently received federal funds.

Hoboken’s projects consist of 1,353 units of affordable housing and senior housing in the southwest part of the city. They’re overseen by the Hoboken Housing Authority, which in turn gets funding and oversight from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“This is the first of about a dozen changes that you can feel.” – Carmelo Garcia

This past Monday, the residents of Andrew Jackson Gardens at 411 Marshall Drive – one of the housing buildings – gathered with elected officials and community members to ceremonially cut the ribbon for their new community room, which will serve as a gathering place for the residents. The other newly renovated community room is at 311 Harrison St.

The cost of the two renovations total $415,000. The entire plan will cost millions of dollars.

Should live like condo owners

At the press conference, Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Carmelo Garcia talked about how federal funds will shape up the projects with renovations like these.

“We have a wonderful master plan and it’s only going to continue,” Garcia said.

In a town filled with condos and luxury buildings, Garcia is using the ideas of the high-end complexes to provide residents of the Housing Authority with in-house amenities.

“We need to emulate the condos’ motto,” Garcia said. “It’s time to give our residents the same amenities as those offered in the condos in town.”

The ribbon cutting ceremony provided a moment of change that the residents can personally experience in their building.

“This is the first of about a dozen changes that you can feel; they’re tangible changes,” Garcia said.

The community room was built in 1962 and was not renovated since that time. The new renovations were funded in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Fund, more commonly known as the president’s “stimulus package.”

Residents who walked into the new room marveled at the coolness of the air conditioning, the cleanliness of the bathrooms, and even the “brand new smell” of the facility.

“These amenities will truly enhance our residents’ quality of life,” Garcia said.

The new community room will be used not only for parties, but also an anti-drug and alcohol class, and potentially an after school homework club.

Upcoming projects

In addition to the community room, 85 kitchen renovations were completed throughout the Hoboken projects, and 65 apartments received other types of renovations, said Garcia.

Garcia shared his high hopes for the Andrew Jackson Gardens building as he opened the door to a room resembling a run-down boiler room.

“I want to try and put a laundry room in here, and an early childhood center,” Garcia said.

Sixteen jobs created

Jake Stuiver, a commissioner on the seven-member Hoboken Housing Authority Board, echoed the sentiments of Garcia.

“This is just one stop along the way to continue to improve the quality of life for residents,” Stuiver said.

Ed DePaola, a representative from the Department of Housing and Urban Development said at the press conference that 16 construction jobs had been created for the renovation of the two community rooms.

“The residents truly deserve a state-of-the-art facility,” said Assemblyman Ruben Ramos Jr. (D-Hoboken) at the press conference.

Councilman Mike Lenz, of the 4th Ward, where much of the public housing is located, spoke about the renovated community room’s importance.

“Anyone who walked into this room a year ago may have felt like they don’t count,” Lenz said, speaking about the former condition of the community room. “Now, anyone who walks into this room will feel like they count. We have to remember that we all count.”

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