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Organizations Asking for CDBG Grants Go Before Council

10/11/16 Caucus Meeting

Business Administrator Adam Cruz

Business Administrator
Adam Cruz

PERTH AMBOY – Council President Lisa Nanton and Business Administrator Adam Cruz requested on the topics of discussion for those organizations to come forward who requested CDBG monies.

Cruz stated, “Under the Best Practices Program, the City has to justify why certain entities were created and if those entities had filed the guidelines.”

The first person to come forward was Executive Director of the Perth Amboy Housing Authority Doug Dzema. Dzema read the mission of the Housing Authority (go to www.perthamboyha.org for more info.) After reading that statement, he read some statistics. “There are 1,518 public housing units in the City of Perth Amboy. 25% are affordable housing units. 19.9% of Perth Amboy households are living in poverty. There are 700 residents on the waiting list. We are trying to provide affordable housing. We have different programs available besides Section 8 to aide them. One of them is called the Family Self-Sufficiency Program. We get funding through the CDBG programs. There are Housing Assistant Programs where we assist families with their mortgages for a period of time, then they’re on their own. Government Funding is at an all-time low. Some of the grants that we have are for the elderly to help them live independently. There’s a new program called RAD which has 360 public housing units. It removes deed restrictions. These units will have upgrades or improvements such as renovations to kitchens, bathrooms and roofing. Of these units, the City will receive a 4% tax credit. P.A.R.T.N.E.R. which is under the Housing Authority has had one Habitat for Humanity Home completed and another one is on the way. Under P.A.R.T.N.E.R. we have provided $65,000 in scholarship money. We received a $500,000, 5 year grant from Wells-Fargo for a gateway program. The P.A.R.T.N.E.R.’s budget is $150,000.

Lisa Nanton Council President

Lisa Nanton
Council President

After Doug Dzema spoke, Lissett Lebron who is the program manager for the Gateway Program came up to speak. “This program is a neighborhood revitalization plan. Four years ago, the Jewish Renaissance, The Housing Authority and P.A.R.T.N.E.R. joined together to form the Gateway Neighborhood Revitalization. We are looking to beautify and improve all the Gateway entrances into the City.” She gave an example as to some of the properties such as Celotex. “We emphasize the arts, gardens, murals, etc. There are 122 milestones to accomplish in 5 years. The Gateway Association consists of stakeholders and residents in the Gateway area.”

Councilman Joel Pabon had a question to ask of Perth Amboy Housing Executive Director Dzema, “How many people from out-of-state get Section 8 vouchers. Dzema explained, “Those from out-of-state are coming in with Tenant Based Vouchers. They can come in from any state and even from Puerto Rico. Our Vouchers (Perth Amboy Housing Authority) are Federal State Vouchers. When you combine with Tenant Based Vouchers with our Federal State Vouchers, there are actually 1500 people on the waiting list. There are many different kinds of vouchers that exist; some are project based vouchers that are attached to buildings.” Dzema continued, “We have 70 units on our public housing list and there are 61 Perth Amboy Residents out of the 70 units. Everyone has to be certified every year.”

After Dzema finished, Lissett Lebron came back up to speak. “We received $100,000 planning grant and an additional $500,000 for the implementation of that grant. This grant was provided by the Wells-Fargo Regional Foundation.

This prompted Councilman Fernando Irizarry to question, “When are we going to start seeing results?”

Lebron responded, “We’ve already had some events using this money such as social programs (career fairs, neighborhood watches, resident surveys, block parties, microloans.) It will take about seven years to see physical results. We provide technical assistance to residents in these Gateway Neighborhoods and we gear residents towards programs that they were interested in. There are administration fees attached to each grant. So far we have 199 residents engaged and 19 are part of the association. We prioritize missions and report back to Wells-Fargo. At one of our job fairs we provided job training and technical assistance to 30 residents.”

Irizarry came back and asked, “Is there any data available on self-sufficiency and has it helped reduce poverty in the City?”

Dzema said, “The information is provided to the Council in the pack presented to you (all the Council Members).”

Housing Chair Dot Daniel came up to speak. She was happy to report, “ Everyone who has gone through and graduated through our self-sufficiency family program have ever gone into foreclosure. We help them through the prepurchase and post-purchase process which helps them avoid going into foreclosure.”

After Daniel sat down 25. Annie Hindenlang, Executive Director Office of Economic and Community Development Perth Amboy Redevelopment Agency came up to report on different redevelopment projects. She started out with the e-port projects. “Bridgeport Phase #1 is reported to bring in 300 to 500 jobs. The expected completion date is the first quarter of 2017. There’s a possibility there will be slots for the Police and Fire Boats. Bridgeport Phase #2 also is expected to bring in 300 to 500 jobs. The expected completion for that is in 2018.” She mentioned Riverwalk Apartment Complex.

Before she could finish the presentation for that, Councilman Irizarry wanted to know, “Will it include any subsidized housing units?”

Hindenlang answered, “You can’t exclude any person who is on a subsidy, but it’s targeted for FMV (Fair Market Value) tenants. 10% of the Riverwalk area will be set aside for parks (green space or open space). 85% of union workers will be working on the e-port buildings and some of these workers are Perth Amboy Residents. The job numbers that were given are estimated projections. The Self Storage Company will only be using the property in Perth Amboy for Storage Units. The fourth quarter of next year will be the projected completion of that project.”

She next mentioned 500 High Street, “There’s a remediation of contaminated materials on that property and they are looking to construct luxury units/restaurants on that land. Smith Street Realty is looking to move their car wash and a  Wa-Wa will be put there. Part of the property that Wa-Wa will be looking at will be an abandoned house and a part of the Public Works Property.”

Hindenlang continued, “The Ameristeel Site, which will be a $100 million project has an expected completion date of 2018.”

. The next speakers were George Cruz and Brian Taylor from the Boys and Girls Club. George Cruz spoke first, “Our request for $30,000 is to support the Bayside Club. This is club is looking to serve 50 youth between the ages of 6 to 13. The grant would be used to support the staff. The club has  a State Childcare license.”

Brian Taylor, who is a retired NBA Player and a star of the 1968 Perth Amboy High School State Basketball Championship Team also made remarks, “The club provides additional academic support teaching them basketball and leadership skills. We focus on low income, single family and high risk children.”

Councilman Joel Pabon wanted to know, “Are all the students from Perth Amboy?”
Cruz and Taylor answered, “Yes.”

Pabon told Brian Taylor, “It’s an inspiration having you here.”

Taylor responded back, “My heart and soul is in Perth Amboy and I want to give back. It feels good to be home and I thank you for your support.”

A representative from Intersect Fund came forward next. They were requesting funding of $50,000. “The funds will be used to hire a loan office to serve Perth Amboy. They provide technical assistance for small businesses. They also make small business loans ranging anywhere from $600 to $50,000. “We bring our own capital money. The $50,000 we are requesting are for the salary and benefits for the loan officer. So far we’ve made 99 loans to Perth Amboy Businesses and we visit the people we made these loans to at least quarterly or more.”

The next person to come up to speak was Maritza Rodriguez from PRAHD who has been with the organization for 34 years. She talked about some of the services that PRAHD provides. Their senior program has been in effect for 40 years and they serve those from age 55+. We provide transportation services which includes taking them to their medical appointments. We provide them with recreation, health, and fitness programs and trips. We also have an inter-generational program and a tennis club. 90% of the people served reside in Perth Amboy. There have been 3000 services provided to Seniors. Included in that count is 667 residents and some of them from out of town. We also help them with their insurance and medical forms. We have tenant based vouchers which provide loans to qualified applicants, but it didn’t work out. We work with homeless intervention. A hotline was established and 3000 calls were made to that line. 300 calls came from Perth Amboy. We screen everyone before they can get into a program. Some of the documentation could be an eviction notice; we also have hardship programs.”

The next organization that was scheduled to speak was the Morris Habitat for Humanity who were requesting  $26,131.15. They withdrew their application.

Marybeth Tortoriello from Sheltered Hearts came up to speak. Their request was for $24,750. They are a non-profit established in 2010. They work with men who are recovering from addiction or may be soon released from prison. They also help family members who live with people who were addicts. Tortoriello stated that she bought the Boyd House on Rector Street. “It will be a transitional house for women to reunite them with their children. These women will get help with life skills and spirituality. We don’t have children living at the house. We still have the garden on the property that supplies the food pantry. We provide temporary shelter in hotels. It’s a 12 month program. When I bought the Boyd House, it needed a lot of renovations. The roof is leaking. The people that are in the program have to follow an itinerary that begins in the morning. They have to give back to the community. The roof and the kitchen in the house need repairs, and that is why we are applying for the grant. I help feed people once a month on Tuesdays on Jefferson Street. I, myself patched a section of the roof.”

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez was concerned and stated, “Too many of the same kind of organizations are coming to Perth Amboy. He told Tortoriello, “You’re doing a beautiful thing; people love Perth Amboy because our heart is in our hands. I need to see about the zoning in that area (269 Rector St.). We need to evaluate what we are doing.”

Tortoriello closed with the following remarks: “Participants have to pay $500 a month to be in the program and there is not a program in the City to help women.”

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