Bayonne has given the final approvals to its planned senior and supportive housing project on Oak Street.
The Planning Board voted unanimously to advance the project at its August 9 meeting. Prior to that, the City Council met for a special meeting on August 5 to approve the amended 8th Street Station Rehabilitation Plan to allow for the new public housing building and approve a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) for the project.
Commissioners who voted in favor of the plans included: Chairwoman Karen Fiermonte, Ramon Veloz, Commissioner George Becker, City Councilman At-Large Loyad Booker, Thomas Maiorano, Jack Beiro, and Ahmed Lack. Vice Chairwoman and Board of Education President Maria Valado and Commissioner Michael Quintela were absent.
Years in the making
The application was presented to the board by Paul Weeks, attorney for the Housing Authority. Weeks noted the courtesy review before the board was to further advance the city’s proposed six-story and 40-unit senior and supportive housing building at 7 Oak Street.
Of the 40 units, 20 will be much-needed public housing for seniors. The other 20 units will be for supportive housing aimed at suiting the needs of Bayonne’s aging developmentally disabled population.
In 2018, the Housing Authority purchased the remediated property from Public Service Electric & Gas (PSEG). The site is currently vacant, surrounded by residential uses, with the odd commercial use, and Route 440 to the rear of the property.
The city, the Bayonne Housing Authority, the Bergen County United Way (BCUW)/Madeline Housing Partners, Penwal Affordable Housing Corporation, and JESPY House Inc. are collaborating on the project, according to project narrative statement. BCUW/Madeline Housing Partners, LLC has been working with the city and the Housing Authority for several years to develop this site for family and special needs housing.
The tenants will be eligible for residential service budgets provided through the NJ Department of Developmental Disabilities. Tenants will be supported in their home by the staff of Fordham-Lewis Consulting, a state licensed residential service provider based in South Orange. Penwal Affordable Housing Corporation will act as the property manager for the project.
Tenants for the units will be selected in consultation with Fordham-Lewis Consulting, the Department of Developmental Disabilities, and interested parents and guardians with adult children who meet diagnosis and level of care criteria which follows a process implemented for all the residences that BCUW/Madeline and Penwal have established. In the past Penwal and BCUW/Madeline have developed Fair Lawn Senior Housing, which is now “complete and fully stabilized.”
Inside the floor plans
Project architect James Virgona explained that the building will be constructed at the corner of Oak Street and Oak Court. The site is comprised of several vacant properties that are grouped together in one lot.
According to Virgona, the main entrance will be on Oak Court, a cul-de-sac. Across from the street from the project is open space. A new park is planned for that area in the future.
On the ground floor and second floor, the building will house a parking garage with 30 spaces. The garage will have entrances on Oak Court and Oak Street, and it will include two electric vehicle parking spaces.
The parking was calculated because there needs to be .95 spaces per senior unit and .41 per supportive unit. That yields 20 required parking spaces, but the city was providing 30 to allow for visitors and visiting staff to service the residents, project engineer Evan Jacobs explained.
Also on the ground floor is a lobby, a mail room, and bike storage, as well an elevator to service the building. The second floor acts as mezzanine level, which will feature a 1,300 square foot community room with public bathrooms to be shared among all residents.
The third and fourth floors will be home to supportive housing units. The one and two-bedroom units will be spread throughout these floors, encompassing 708 to 772 square feet and 939 square feet respectively.
Of the 20 supportive units, 16 will be one-bedroom and four will be two-bedroom. The fifth and sixth floors will be home to senior housing units. They will only be one-bedroom units.
There will be lounges on each floor of the east side of the building, offering views of Manhattan. A roof terrace is included, too, at the top of the 80 foot tall building.
Additionally, included in the building will be a quiet space to be used as a study room. The building will also feature two offices, one for the supportive units and another for the senior units.
City Planner Suzanne Mack also testified at the hearing on the joint project between the city and the Housing Authority. Mack is also the Affordable Housing Monitor, and also helps the Planning Board which is in charge of the Fair Housing Plan.
According to Mack, this project was exciting for her because the city hasn’t done this type of housing in very long. The last instance was the Windmill Project seven years ago, she said.
Mack the city started collaborating with the Housing Authority six months ago on making the plans a reality and have been working as a team each week since. She said the City Council approved the amended redevelopment plan at their special meeting to allow this Planning Board meeting to have occurred to meet upcoming deadlines relating to the financing of the project.
Also of note, Mack said that exercise equipment may be included in the common space for seniors.
After the presentation, Fiermonte asked about safety measures for garage, to which Jacobs said there was ample room, about eight to nine feet, between the recessed garage door and sidewalk for pedestrians and vehicles to traverse safely.
Veloz asked about trash and recycling, which Jacobs said will be collected in a main trash room via a chute located in trash rooms on every floor and will be brought to the curb on Oak Court for pick up by the city hauler.
Regarding the drainage utility plan in place in back of the building, Fiermonte asked if the slow-release stormwater catch basins would help the area. Jacobs confirmed it was designed to meet state regulations and exceeds them, noting it is an improvement over what is there currently.
Prior to voting in favor of the project, Fiermonte applauded the application, particularly happy about the ample parking.
“It’s nice to have a hearing come before us with this type of project,” Fiermonte said. “I do like that it’s a little over parked just in case people do have to come in. I am certainly in favor of this.”
Additional approvals needed?
Now, the public housing project needs the approval of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency board, with the city needing to have approved everything by the 17th. However, one aspect of the project may also need additional approval of the City Council.
The awning for the entrance of the building encroaches on the right-of-way for Oak Court. The council needs to give its approval in order to grant the encroachment.
The next City Council meeting is on August 17 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.