The city of Hoboken may purchase 601 Jackson St., home of the Jubilee Center, after the city council adopted a resolution to make a $3 million offer.
According to a recent virtual town hall meeting, the board of the Jubilee Center decided to put the property up for sale after revenues streams shriveled and attendance shrunk.
A difficult decision
In 1996, All Saints Episcopal Parish formed the All Saints Community Service and Development Corporation (ASCSDC), a nonprofit, nonsectarian agency that offered homework help after school programming in the Hoboken Housing Authority’s (HHA) Community Room.
The goal was to provide children assistance with their growth and development in a safe and secure setting.
The program grew, and in 2003, the nonprofit constructed a 9,000-square-foot building on the comer of Sixth and Jackson Streets, naming it the Jubilee Center, in honor of the Biblical mandate for the “Year of the Jubilee.”
The center could now expand to serve more children and offer additional programming such as an affordable summer camp, and academic enrichment.
After more than two decades, the center’s Board of Trustees announced it would need to sell their physical home.
“The financial pressures which have been upon us for a long time, but have been exacerbated through this COVID time, brought us to the difficult decision to sell the property,” said David Tornabene, president of the board.
Longtime board member Laura Russell explained that donations to the center became stagnant, and government grants that the facility relied on shrunk.Around that same time, the center saw a decrease in membership.
“Enrollment five years ago was 50 children a night,” said board Vice President Michelle May. “Over the last two years, it’s been 25 children or below.”
She said that many of the grants the center relied on are based on how many children they serve and thus, “that income dropped dramatically.”
“After a lot of consideration and deliberation by the board, based on the size of the program, and shrinking grants and donations, the best thing to do to save the program was to redirect funds,” Russell said.
She said that by selling the building the center could pay off the mortgage and eliminate expenses that come with owning property, and instead use that money to continue programming and “continue to move the center forward.”
They listed the property in July for $3.35 million.
Members of the community took to social media to post about what the Jubilee Center has done for those for the community.
“My son attended summer camp at jubilee last summer, and it was a great experience,” wrote one mother on Facebook. “The community lacks any kind of affordable summer camp programs for working parents. We need programs like yours that are open to all families.”
“Jubilee has been such an asset to Hoboken,” wrote Housing Authority board member Erica Seitzman. “We look forward to keeping the partnership, especially for the HHA children.”
Making an offer
At the end of the Sept. 2 meeting, Councilmen Michael Russo and Jim Doyle sponsored a resolution authorizing the city to purchase 601 Jackson St. for $3 million ”subject to securing financing.”
According to Doyle, the building could provide space for the public school district, catered events, public meetings, and possibly for the Hoboken Food Pantry.
“The city is … considering offering a certain amount of space to be leased to the school board … because they are bursting at the seams,” said Doyle, noting that there is classroom space on the second and third floor as well as administrative space.
He said another idea “being floated around” could be enclosing the property’s backyard for the Hoboken Food Pantry, moving it closer to where the needs are as they serve many residents in Hoboken’s southwest.
“It’s a win, win, win,” Doyle said.
The council adopted the resolution in a 7-1-1 vote with Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher absent, and Council President Jen Giattino voting no.
Giattino said the Jubilee Center, district children, and other programs should be housed at the property, including the Hoboken Food Pantry, but she felt it was “really rushed and not thought through.”
“We are putting in an offer just based on the asking price, which to me is the craziest thing I ever heard in my life,” she said. “But … I’m sure there are yes votes, and I will be the no, but sometimes I have to be the adult in the room.”