Five residents helped make $1 million in grant money available to Hoboken for public agencies and non-profit organizations this year. But nobody knows their names.
The city got more federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for the public agencies because it exceeded a population benchmark of 50,000 residents by five people (a figure that was determined by the census). After the 2010 census, the city was able to self-administer the program.
Last year, city spokesman Juan Melli said, the city acquired a little over $400,000 in CDBG grants, a number that increased by over $600,000 this year.
In the past, the city allocated the funds under the Hudson County Consortium for CDBG.
“The population increase meant we could self-administer the funds,” Melli said over the phone on Friday. “[Hence] we could get a larger amount of funds.”
The U.S Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the city a total of $937,000 in grant money for public services, economic development and public facility projects; a number much higher than in previous years. The city also got $63,000 to pay consultants and administrators to help disperse the funds.
At the City Council meeting this past Wednesday, Oct. 7, Community Development Director Brandy Forbes outlined how the city will use the CDBG funds to make contributions of over $300, 000 to both the Hoboken Homeless Shelter and the Fox Hill apartment complex.
“Some tough decisions were made. But we felt we were picking programs that had a direct impact on the daily lives of Hoboken’s residents.” Tim Occhipinti.
How was it possible?
Once the city realized it had exceeded the 50,000-resident benchmark they created a five-year consolidated plan in terms of where the funds would be allocated. The City Council created an ad-hoc subcommittee made up of Occhipinti, Council-at-large James Doyle, and Councilwoman Theresa Castellano to review the applications and submit recommendations about who should be funded.
The outreach process for the program was led by City Planner Chris Brown and Forbes – who were both praised by the City Council members during the Oct. 7 meeting. Forbes said that in May 2014, the city submitted a one-year action plan for 2015 to HUD. “Unfortunately we are limited as to how much money we can give out in services. Some tough decisions were made. But we felt we were picking programs that had a direct impact on the daily lives of Hoboken’s residents,” said Occhipinti, who also runs a non-profit group in town, Hoboken Volunteers.
Although recent council meetings have been tame despite the ongoing election, later in the meeting, 3rd Councilman Michael Russo called Occhipinti’s extensive breakdown of the grant allocations a “political rant.” Both men are up for re-election (and sometimes are on the same side). Occhipinti denied that his comments were political.
Helping the homeless shelter
On Thursday, Oct. 8 the mayor joined the Executive Director of the Hoboken Shelter Jaclyn Cherubini to award the shelter with $332, 674 for improvements to their facilities.
“We are truly thankful for this important grant from the [city] to help us renovate our facility to shelter 50 people nightly, serve 500 meals daily, offer 1,000 showers weekly, and provide support services to help our homeless neighbors move from the streets to our Shelter to their own homes,” said Cherubini. “Thanks to these funds, we can end homelessness one person at a time!”
Last year, the shelter helped 141 people move into their own homes.
The shelter plans to make improvements including installing an emergency generator system, renovating showers and restrooms, rebuilding and expanding the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, installing a water sprinkler fire suppression system, upgrading and repairing sewerage and drainage systems, replacing the kitchen exhaust fan system, resurfacing floors, and rebuilding window frames to enhance energy efficiency.
The Hoboken shelter is one of only three shelters in Hudson County and only facility that offers three meals a day to the homeless.
The shelter said they provide a variety of services to their visitors including drug and alcohol counseling, budget counseling, medication education, vocational support, housing assistance, clothing, and job training.
They also provide permanent supportive housing for 22 former guests who live in their own apartments. They get rental subsidies through a project-based voucher.
Elevator repairs at Fox Hill and other grants
Forbes said during the meeting that the following will receive funds: United Cerebral Palsy of Hudson County ($2,000), True Mentors Inc. ($25,000), All Saints Community Service & Development Corporation, Mile Square Early Learning Center ($30,139), Hopes Community Action Partnership Inc. ($30,000), Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County ($30,900), Hudson County Cancer Coalition ($5,000) Hoboken Day Care 100 ($15,000), Hoboken Family Planning Inc. ($20,000), Momma Johnson Field ($32,770) and The Waterfront Project ($10,000).
Another $380,000 was allocated to modernize the elevators at the Fox Hill apartments – a federally funded low-income building for seniors and the disabled.
According to the HHA, the elevators haven’t been upgraded since the building was constructed in the 1960s.
Hispanic Heritage Month honorees
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Zimmer recognized three locals for their contributions to the community.
The city honored the family of Tom Olivieri (a local tenant rights activist who died last year), Director of the Waterfront Project Elizabeth Caraballo, and new Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez.
Caraballo helped found The Waterfront Project, an independent, non-profit clinic that provides legal counsel, referrals, and representation in civil legal matters to low-income and disadvantaged individuals and families in Hoboken and throughout Hudson County.
Olivieri, who was born in Puerto Rico and settled in Hoboken in the early 1950s, fought the displacement of poor residents during the 1970s and helped tenants with their problems through the following two decades.
Suarez recently became the first Hispanic and first woman prosecutor in Hudson County. A Secaucus resident, she was recently sworn in to a five-year term.
Steven Rodas can be reached at email@example.com.