Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, June 18, 2010

Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green shows two faces on affordable housing

Assemblyman Green is not to be confused
with the Roman god Janus, who had good reason to have two faces

Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green is showing two faces on affordable housing as his Housing and Local Government Services committee considers the Assembly version of the COAH-killer housing bill Gov. Christie wants passed before June 30.

Facing pressure from both the governor and Union County Dem powerhouse Sen. Ray Lesniak, whose Senate committee held no public hearing on the bill before kicking it to the full Senate, Green says he will not be rushed (see Christie demand here; Green pushback here).

Kevin Walsh, associate director of the Fair Share Housing Center, one of the groups advocating on behalf of affordable housing, saw Green's pushback as a 'fresh start' (full story here) --
..."Speaker Oliver and Assemblyman Green have stood up for working families and people with special needs," Walsh said. "People have been opposing this all along, and finally someone listened. We look forward to drafting a bill that gets housing near transit and jobs..."
Walsh and other affordable housing supporters would be well advised to check out Assemblyman Green's own words on affordable housing before thinking they are going to get a serious consideration of the matter by Green.

On June 15, Assemblyman Green took up the matter of the affordable housing bill on his blog, Jerry Green's Page (see here) --
As Chair of Housing and Local Government, I will be having a committee meeting wherein S-1 will be on the agenda. I have been working with Governor's Office, housing groups throughout the State, as well as Senator Lesniak to construct an effective bill. My approach has been to have everyone sit at the table, which will allow me to gain cohesive support.

Not everyone will be happy of course, but we must do something to ease the pain of this crippling issue of affordable housing within New Jersey. I hope to have a conscious bill drafted within the next 48 hours that deals directly with the issue at hand. I am aiming for it to be fair and hit the target of taking the first big steps of shaping an effective bill...
So far, so good. However, Walsh might not feel very reassured if he just reads a little further on --
"In the last four years, I have been able to stop, what I consider, how Plainfield has been taken advantage of ... Plainfield being a dumping ground for low-income housing ... A prime example ... the Teppers site was converted into a low-income housing facility within one of our prime locations of our downtown area."
Now, Mr. Walsh would probably need some background here. Teppers was a former Plainfield department store that had sat empty -- despite many efforts to redevelop the property -- for nearly thirty years when it was finally successfully converted into a mixed-use retail and residential project nearly ten years ago.

The developer and the mayor at the time, Al McWilliams, had high hopes that the project would be market-rate, but the only financing available through the state's Mortgage and Home Finance Authority at the time was for affordable housing.

While Assemblyman Green refers to it as 'low-income housing', it is in fact the same sort of AFFORDABLE HOUSING his committee is taking up and which Mr. Walsh seems to believe Mr. Green supports.

Far from it.

As for the 'people with special needs' that Walsh cites Green as supporting, the Assemblyman continues --
"I do not have a problem with initiating housing for individuals with social disabilities, but I do have a problem with the fact that Cory converts these buildings for personal gain, thus disarming the quality of Plainfield. Once these houses are purchased by non-profit agencies, they are taken off the tax rolls." [The reference to Cory Storch's 'personal gain' is simply untrue. -- DD]
Green supports 'special needs' but complains that when nonprofits buy properties for these uses, they come off the tax rolls. Does he propose to change that? Hardly.

So, Jerry is showing two faces on the affordable housing question, leading folks like Walsh to believe he is supportive, while to Plainfield he presents another face altogether, quite at odds with his Trenton persona.

Following Assemblyman Green's thought processes has always been tortuous, but it seems in recent months that things have taken a turn for the worse, not only with the invective and prevarications in his blog post cited here, but in the language used by Green in reference to the affordable housing bill.

The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill, the first paper to report on Green's Assembly committee hearings, cites him as saying '[w]e are committed to blowing up COAH' (Green's own words), decidedly provocative and unstatesmanlike language.

I will take up Assemblyman Green's malicious attack on Councilman Storch in a separate post, as well as begining to keep a close eye on Green's language and whether it indicates anything about his mental well-being.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Rob said...

Jerry Green, 2 Faces ???? You might have simply stated that the sun rises in the east for such common everyday facts.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Assemblyman (which I cannot believe I am saying) - No more affordable or low income housing. Plainfield has plenty, and will never get out of the gutter unless we have residents who can afford market rate housing.

Anyway, where does it say that people are entitled?

Dan said...

@ 9:13 AM -- I think you're confusing two issues --

1) Jerry has to draw up a bill affecting ALL New Jersey communities, which everyone supposes is to be 'fair'. What could that mean if Plainfield gets special treatment?

2) The 'affordable housing' beinf referred to is when NEW CONSTRUCTION is undertaken; it does not refer to how 'affordable' a town may already be.

Anonymous said...

From the Progressive Democrats of America-NJ:

At yesterday's Housing and Local Government Committee hearing, Assemblyman Jerry Green announced that they would not be voting on S-1, and instead are going to take their time, and actually consider devising affordable housing reform that will produce actual affordable housing.

So give him a call today, at (908) 561-5757. Thank him for taking the time to listen to the voices of advocates and residents of affordable housing, and for not rushing through a bill that would essentially dismantle the important work that's happened in New Jersey over the past 30 years. Also, urge him to keep listening, and to make sure that the bill his commitee ends up posting actually works for New Jersey.

Anonymous said...

Leave it to you, Dan--someone gives you lemonade and you try to make lemons out of it. At least Assemblyman Green is listening. Nobody is going to get everything they want out of this, but S-1 is a terrible bill and our Assemblyman knows it.

Pat Fox said...

I am surprised that Assemblyman Green criticized the Tepper's project as he was actively involved in the negotiations netting the City twice the original price offered by the developer. Also, he was one of the politicians who rejected the several million dollars in COAH payments offered by two other communities that would have been used exclusively to provide deferred loans to bring 1 to 3 family properties up to code. These properties would have to have been owned and occupied by residents meeting certain income requirments. Wouldn't this have been a smart move in a community with predominantly older housing stock? Isn't today's complilation of blog stories and reports about stemming the tide of deteriorated properties?