His due reward WNY dedicates affordable housing building to longtime advocate

Now that the first phase of the city’s three-site affordable housing project has been opened, Housing Authority Director Robert DiVincent, West New York Mayor Albio Sires and the Board of Commissioners dedicated the building to longtime affordable housing advocate Monsignor John Gilchrist.

“This housing program was a long time in the making, so it is fitting that we dedicated the first phase of the program to monsignor Gilchrist, who has advocated so long and so hard for affordable housing in Hudson County,” said Sires.

The 18-unit affordable housing building recently opened on Madison Street, just one block west of Bergenline Avenue. The dedication took place on May 15 in the building’s community room on its second floor.

Long-time advocate

Gilchrist, the pastor of Holy Cross Church in Harrison, first began his advocacy for affordable housing in the early 1980s when condominium conversions and coop buildings replaced 15,000 affordable housing units in Hudson County.

Gilchrist was the first president of the Hudson County Tenants’ Council and the current vice-president of the Hudson County Resource Center’s Board for Tenant Advocacy. He is also a columnist for the Catholic Advocate newspaper.

” I know that he is an advocate because I don’t think that I was in office for more than a couple of months before Gilchrist came into my office to talk about the need for affordable housing,” said Sires. “His effort over the years has been incredible.”

Gilchrist has been credited with initiating many of West New York’s affordable housing endeavors. With his help, an eight-unit affordable housing building at 328 60th St. opened in June 2000 and started the trend that has led to West New York’s plans for more affordable housing units.

“My only role has been a friend to people who must pay rent,” said Gilchrist, after receiving a plaque last week at the dedication of the new Gilchrist Building. “These are people like myself who grew up in modest surroundings.”

About the project

Madison Manor, now named the Gilchrist Building, is part of a three-site affordable housing project in West New York.

“This project was something so sorely needed in West New York,” said Sires, who spearheaded the effort to create this project. “Almost everybody who comes into the mayor’s office needs help with one of two things. They either need help with a job or need help with affordable housing.”

Formerly the site of the Madison Manor banquet hall, which was destroyed by a fire, the building now includes 18 three-bedroom units and two four-bedroom units. The 950 square foot three-bedroom units will rent for $550 a month. The one available four-bedroom unit, just a little more than 1,000 square feet, will rent for about $650. The building’s superintendent will occupy the second four-bedroom unit.

“This project started out with one site,” said Sires speaking about Fillmore Apartments, the largest of the three sites in the project. “We were trying to renovate the old building on 60th Street, the veteran’s housing.”

Fillmore Apartments, once a 40-unit veteran’s housing complex, will house two towers, one with five stories and one with four stories, with a total of 108 one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Filmore Place has a two-story parking garage underneath the building and will house the West New York Parking Authority offices on the first floor. One of the parking levels will be used for municipal parking, said Sires.

The Dewey manor site, formally an abandoned garage and empty lot, will be the next site to receive occupants. The site will contain 17 three-bedroom units and parking on the lower level.

This project was funded through many federal, state, and county grants as well as other agencies.

The state of New Jersey, through its Balanced Housing and Loan Program, provided more than $3.5 million. Roseland Properties, developer of the town’s Jacob’s Ferry waterfront development, contributed $1.2 million as part of its funding agreement with the town. Roseland had to donate $4,000 per unit built in the waterfront toward the town’s affordable housing trust fund. The Town of West New York donated two parcels of land.

The Hudson County Home Loan program contributed $1.48 million, and the West New York Housing Authority contributed $260,000 and the Federal Home Loan Bank contributed $400,000.

WNC Associates, a California-based investment group, bought nearly $1.7 million in tax credits under the Federal Housing Mortgage Finance Agency tax credit program, which generated $13.4 million for the housing program.

According to DiVincent, the Housing Authority has received more than 600 applications for the remaining 83 affordable housing units in the Fillmore Apartments. Because of the large demand, DiVincent said that the Authority is no longer accepting applications.


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