Newark's public housing complex won't be demolished - for now

By Karen Yi | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on April 27, 2017

 

NEWARK -- The Board of Commissioners at the Newark Housing Authority failed to vote on an application Thursday to demolish Terrell Homes, a public housing complex that has prompted passionate pleas from residents who want it to remain open

The move came after a standing-room-only meeting in which residents demanded the board stop the building's closure.

"I know where I'm at, I don't know where I'm going," 20-year Terrell Homes resident Linda Jones said during the meeting. "We are a community, please don't take that away from us."

The housing authority has said it's too cash-strapped to maintain the aging facility that needs more than $60 million in repairs.  

The agency, which receives federal funding, must ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for permission to close and demolish the building. The application needs approval from the board and a letter of support from the mayor before being submitted. 

Mayor Ras Baraka submitted a letter of support on Feb. 2, writing that "the physical buildings of Terrell Homes have outlived their useful lives, given the crumbling infrastructure, lack of quality amenities, physical isolation of the complex and outdated systems" and that the "demolition of the buildings is the most cost-effective measure."

But on Thursday, commissioners did not vote on a resolution authorizing the application. No commissioner seconded the motion to move it for a vote.

"This may take us back to the drawing board," Keith Kinard, NHA executive director told NJ Advance Media. "The housing advocates, Board of Commissioners, staff and residents need to come together and figure out what the future of Terrell Homes will be."

He said challenges at Terrell Homes -- like flooding, environmental contamination, high crime and disrepair -- remained. The complex was built in the 1940s. 

NHA employees also crammed the meeting Thursday, criticizing the agency-wide furloughs set to begin on Friday. All 340 employees will be furloughed for 12 days for the remainder of the year.

Kinard said the furloughs will save $1.2 million and avoid layoffs of full-time staff as federal funding continues to decrease. 

But employees Thursday blamed fiscal mismanagement and unnecessary political hires.

"If you don't have money, why are you still hiring?" asked Marvin Bowman, vice president of Local 617, which is representing some NHA workers. "They're giving us furloughs but they're still hiring and the hiring is coming from City Hall."

A spokesperson for Baraka did not immediately return a request for comment.

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