City officials are looking to buy 30 properties near the Passaic River in the Northside section using $2.1 million in federal disaster recovery funds the municipality received via Passaic County and New Jersey after hurricane Irene inundated the 1st Ward neighborhood.
The properties near the river bank on East Holsman, Watson, North Bridge, and Bergen Streets will be turned into an open space area, said city officials. The parcels are a mix of vacant lots and empty buildings the city intends to acquire through the continuation of its Northside Buyback Program.
Community Development director Barbara McLennon said the city has two programs to purchase properties in the 1st Ward neighborhood ravaged by flood in 2011.
The first program utilizes $5.6 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the city received in the aftermath of the cyclone. And the second program is funded through $2.1 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR) that the city received via the state and the county.
William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, wanted to know how the two programs work together. He wanted to see a map showing the various properties that are being acquired through the two programs.
McLennon said a map was produced showing just that, but she did not have it with her during last Tuesday’s city council meeting. She said the map was shown to the city council’s community development committee which oversees her department.
“A map is critical for us to understand what this swath of land will look like once all these properties are acquired,” said McKoy expressing disapproval at the lack of a map. “Without a map I have no way of grasping where these properties are.”
Worried the council may postpone action on the item, McLennon said the city has to submit documentations to the county before September 30th, 2015 or risk losing the funds.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, suggested $2.1 million may not be sufficient to purchase the 30 mostly vacant lots. McLennon said first round of appraisals have been completed on the properties and a final round is on the way.
McLennon said offers have been made to properties owners based on those appraisals. She said the program is voluntary.
The properties will vary in price, said McLennon, when Cotton said dividing up the entire amount in 30 direction does not amount to much money per property. A price list for the properties being acquired has yet to be sewn up, indicated McLennon.
Before the city can acquire the properties they have to undergo environmental inspection, said McLennon. Council members on Tuesday evening entered into a contract with Fairfield-based GZA Geo Environmental, which will perform environmental assessments for single family properties at $950, multi-families for $525, and vacant lots for $950, according to city records.
Although the council has yet to approve purchase of the 30 properties, the city has acquired at least one of the properties on the list in March of this year. 16 Bergen Street was purchased by the city through CDBG-DR funds for $130,000, according to county records.
Council members will vote on the 30 property buyout ordinance for preliminary approval on September 15th, 2015.