The almost 75 years old Riverside Terrace Housing Project on 5th Avenue is being demolished to make way for 259 units of senior apartments and townhouse units.
Irma Gorham, director of the Paterson Housing Authority, said the troubled World War II-era housing project that once housed returning veterans, will be replaced by a four-story building for seniors and townhouses for families. She said the 188 families that currently call the ramshackle complex their home will be relocated elsewhere starting this spring.
Gorham expects to have the families relocated by this summer. She said the demolition of the project is pending approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). She estimates demolition for late summer and groundbreaking for the new development in the fall.
Cost for the first and second phases of the project is estimated at $28 million. The director said the project will be done in four phases. Newark-based Roizman & Companies is the developer of the project, she said. She said the developer has been given a long-term ground lease of the site.
Gorham presented the plan for the first two phases to the City Council on Tuesday night. She needs the council to pass two resolution stating there is a need for affordable housing in the city to allow the developer to secure financing for the project.
She fielded various questions from council members about the project. Council president William McKoy, who represents the 3rd Ward, where the project is located, was pleased to see a commercial component to the development.
“We’re looking to continue the commercial, retail along Route 20,” said Gorham. The housing project faces McLean Boulevard, the city’s big box store corridor that attracts shoppers from surrounding communities. She said the commercial space is 5,500 square feet on 5th Avenue and McLean Boulevard.
She said the commercial space will be owned by the Paterson Housing Authority and leased to an interested firm. This will generate revenue that can be used to further the authority’s mission, she said.
McKoy said the old project was isolated and sought re-assurance the new development will be integrated into the existing neighborhood. He invoked some of the renowned urban planner Oscar Newman’s theories for housing projects that aim to deter crime and prevent deterioration in public housing complexes through defensible space, clearly delineating private from common space.
“We should utilize all of Route 20 as commercial,” said Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, suggesting the entire space facing Route 20 should be commercial.
“It’s a very small space that’s being designated for community space,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, who worried about recreation in the area. He suggested the commercial piece be turned into recreation space for city families.
Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman, also wanted more recreation for children and seniors. “We don’t want to put senior citizens in a jail,” he said suggesting gardens and fountains for seniors.
Jeffrey Zenn of Hackensack-based Cullen and Dykman said the first floor of the senior building will have community space. Zenn represents the developer.
Jackson also wanted community groups to be given access to gyms and facilities at the building. He complained the Paterson Housing Authority has not been allowing community groups to utilize the facilities at Smoot Village by Temple Street and the Heritage at Alexander Hamilton by Alabama Avenue.
There’s an “easy” process to secure permission to use all housing authority facilities, said Gorham. She said the Paterson Recreation Division often uses the facilities at the Christopher Hope Center on Temple Street.
Jackson said the project is being rushed through at the last minute. He also said the authority has not provided full details to council members at Tuesday’s meeting. He also expressed concerns at the 40-unit reduction from the existing housing project at the location.
Three residents of the existing housing project attended Tuesday’s meeting. The council president invited them to speak, but the three women declined. They said they did not have any concerns at the moment.
“I’m really concerned about the drop in family units,” said Daphne Cunningham, a resident who has lived at the Riverside Terrace for 25 years.
“I’m looking forward to the change,” said Barbara Jones, who has lived at the complex for 25 years.
Built in 1943, the Riverside Terrace has deteriorated and turned into a hotbed for drug dealing and gun violence. Police periodically respond to reports of shots fired at Grimes Places and Plesinger Place. Some of the families have moved out due to the crime.
Jones described the housing complex as a close-knit community.
The proposed project consists of 80 units in a four-story building for seniors in a 80,991 square feet lot. Seven residential buildings containing 63 low-income housing units, a community building with a gym, management, and maintenance offices on a 227,705 square feet lot in phases one and two, according to city records.
The city’s planning and zoning has approved the first two phases of the project. The senior building will be run by Riverside Senior Associates 2017 LLC and the townhouses will be run by Harris Townhomes Associates 2017 LLC. Both entities are subsidiaries of the developer ,Roizman of Newark.
Council members are expected to consider endorsing the affordable housing project at their regular meeting on April 11th, 2017 at 7 p.m. in City Hall.