At the HHA meeting Thursday night, the Hoboken Police Department was out in force but a far usual crowd size of several dozen mostly Hoboken Housing residents witnessed the approval of the first Vision 20/20 building in a 5-1 vote.
The HHA board’s approval initiates the process to build a new HHA building at 333 Harrison Street with nine floors and 44 low income units.
The lone dissenting vote was cast by Chairman Jake Stuiver who was unable to attend due to a serious illness in his family but worked the entire meeting via telephone. (His mother passed away the next morning.) HHA commissioner Judy Burrell was absent with a high school event out of town.
Robert Powell of Nassau Capital Advisors speaking on behalf of the resolution for its recommendation: RPM Development of Montclair, the selected bidder among three on a short list originally nine said he was unsure if federal funding would be available next year and confirmed to the commissioners the approval could see their review again. HHA counsel Charles Daglian would later correct him saying the board approval was complete upon their vote. The new building will be paid for with federal funding from a Hurricane Sandy recovery bill as stated by meeting participants.
The award to build at 333 Harrison is a victory for Executive Director Carmelo Garcia who has pushed for the Vision 20/20 plan. The project originally slated for a 50% expansion before being scaled back to 25% against the existing 806 units in 25 buildings covers 17 acres in the city.
The original Vision 20/20 plan was wall to wall buildings with no open space, parks and planned a garage at the Pino site, now under review by the mayor’s administration as a park in the third ward. That design goes against HUD’s federal recommendations for lower density.
With members of the HHA shouting interjections for the building to be approved including Michele Russo, mother of third ward Councilman Michael Russo, the agitated crowd pressure was constant but not at the level of the previous contentious meetings. Previous, the crowd size and noise was deafening on behalf of the legal counsel Charles Daglian being re-appointed, as urged by Carmelo Garcia. (HUD after review has forced the contract to be rebid.)
Concerns about the procurement process, severely criticized by HUD recently were raised by commissioners David Mello and Greg Lincoln but were on the whole muted and sometimes drowned out by interjections from the audience including long time politico Perry Belfiore who again directed the start of his public remarks against MSV.
Commissioner Eduardo Gonzalez raised questions about the HHA unit recently raided by police found to be illicitly producing methamphetamine. Gonzalez referenced seeing a local website outlining environmental damage to the apartment and building itself, a clear reference to a recent story appearing on Grafix Avenger. Director Garcia said a contracted cleaning service would be responsible for the cleanup and if not able to adequately manage it, would subcontract the required work. Meth labs cause severe contamination and can affect structures indoors where produced including furniture, floors, walls and ceiling structures.
Perry Belfiore who has had construction interests spoke on behalf of Vision 20/20 as did
Michele Ruso who was seated at the very front, right behind the microphone.
Talking Ed Note: One attendee quietly remarked in an aside to MSV, “You should watch your back.” Asked for a clarification as to why, no reply was offered. It was taken as a warning not a direct threat.
At an earlier City Council meeting, Councilwoman Beth Mason asked Dave Mello “what’s going on” down at the HHA? As Mello answered, there was some irony Mason had at least three political operatives plus Tim Occhipinti among them at the earlier HHA meeting. The only Mason political operative at this meeting held in Fox Hills was Matt Calicchio.
On a personal note, MSV wishes to extend personal condolences to Jake Stuiver and his family for their loss. Others wishing to do so may write him at email@example.com.
Related: Grafix Avenger’s Old Guard “Deep Throat,” – Deep Uvula, blew the lid off the Vision 20/20 plan last June calling it a “a builder’s wet dream… wall to wall buildings. Hundreds of millions in construction fees, real estate commissions, insurance premiums, points, – everyone has been slobbering over all the dough to be made.”
Michele Russo, mother of third ward councilman Michael Russo also spoke in favor of the construction. She’s made a seven figure sum from new construction in Hoboken among other reported “towing” bribes, re: Hoboken operations.
Correction: MSV underestimated the mammoth increase proposed in the original 20/20 plan. The “main campus” would have grown from 806 units to 1,853 residential units representing a 130% increase in the number of units in the main area minus Columbus Gardens and Fox Hill.
Commissioner Dave Mello proposed the reduction as part of additional changes to keep the wall to wall monoliths from being erected. In addition, another federal funding source is supporting 333 Harrison, not the Sandy bill alone.
333 Harrison is five floors not nine as originally told in the story.