Government

"NJTV in the Neighborhood" Puts Lens on City Housing Issues

NJTV community forum at the Adult Learning Center on Monday, December 18. Credits: NJTV
76ce99dd2cb92ec2fb4a_IYN_NB_Title.jpg
76ce99dd2cb92ec2fb4a_IYN_NB_Title.jpg

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - New Jersey Television (NJTV) was ​here this past week for a community forum focusing on housing and quality of life in New Brunswick.

The town hall was part of NJTV’s annual In Your Neighborhood Series, where the statewide television network​ focuses​ a lens on different communities across New Jersey. In previous segments, NJTV was in Asbury Park, Camden and Trenton.

The structure of the community forum was a three-person panel, moderated by NJTV news correspondent Michael Hill.

Sign Up for E-News

On the panel were Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Poling at Rutgers​, Staci Berger from Housing and Community Development Network of NJ, and Teresa Viva, executive director of Lazos America Unida

Also in the audience, ​al​though not sitting up front as a panelist in the front of the room, were Jamie Santiago, executive director of New Brunswick Tomorrow, and Karen Blumenfield, executive director of Global Advisers on Smoke Free Policy.

​The talk was about housing.​

It hasn’t been a secret that rent has gone up across the board​ in New Brunswick​, but the question is whether tenants get their money's worth for what they pay.

“To be honest, I think a huge problem the community has is the quality of the housing compared with the price of the rent is not equal. It’s a disastrously huge difference,” Vivar said.

Tenants who want the landlords to address unsafe or unhealthy issues in the apartment might not do so, out of fear of some kind of reprisal, according to Berger​, a long-time local activist from her days at Rutgers in the early 1990s.​

For one, the tenant could be penalized through a kind of “blacklisting” among landlords, where the person simply won’t be accepted for an apartment application anywhere else​, she noted.​

With many tenants undocumented, and a presidential administration set on removing any such persons from the country, landlords have used the political climate to their advantage​, Berger claimed.​

“ICE is very active in New Brunswick, and if you report a bad landlord, there’s a very real fear that somebody’s going to come to your door and pick you up,” Berger said. “And if you have small children, or children of any kind, you’re just not going to take that chance.”

Koning ​notes there is a survey done by Eagleton every four years, interviewing New Brunswick residents on their attitudes about the city.

Nearly half the residents polled said they would move out of the city given the chance, according to Koning, while another 17 percent said they’d prefer to move to another part of the city.

“It’s affordability, it’s cleaner streets​,​ it’s better rent and better housing options,” Koning said, ​al​though crime and safety has come squarely in first place.

The survey reported crime and safety as a common theme from residents asked on what needs to be improved.

“They want to know that it’s safe at night, on the street that they’re roaming around, on the streets that they live on or in their neighborhood,” Koning said.

The urge to get out of New Brunswick isn’t unique to ​the city, Koning said.

“It's been something with residents statewide, that residents are kind of dissatisfied. They don’t think the state is going on the right track and quality of life is down,” Koning said.

Many of the programs meant for community development have existed for some time, Berger said, but in recent years, funding for those programs has been raided by Gov. ​Chris ​Christie​'s​ administration to plug holes in the state budget.  

One notable example has been the lead prevention fund, according to Berger, where the $10 million earmarked for the fund was diverted to the ​general state treasury.

With bad living conditions and no way out, the health toll has become evident for many residents​, she said.​

About a quarter of respondents in Koning’s survey reported ​that ​they or someone in their household had asthma, another quarter reported diabetes and another quarter reported obesity.

“Really a new one for us that we started asking about, we addressed mental health, and actually 28 percent of residents say that somebody in their household is dealing with some sort of depression,” Koning said.

The toll has also been evident on education, Berger said.

“If you’re a mom and you’ve got three kids, who are cold and in unsafe housing conditions, they’re not going to do real well in school,” Berger said. “So if you have a stable home that you can afford and you have some place that keep the lights on at night. I mean, there are kids doing homework with no lights.”

Many community-betterment programs meant to address these issues aren’t rated for their effectiveness, according to Vivar, or they might not be used ​by residents who don’t even know about them, or they might not have been developed with input from local residents

“Not many organizations do the follow-up if these proposals are effective or not, and that’s a problem,” Vivar said. “A lot of money has been given to non-profit organizations and even resources to other institutions to improve the life, but what if the community doesn’t know anything about it.”

The disconnection Vivar spoke of involves existing programs in  the city, the county, the state and Rutgers​ University​.

“All of this research has been misplaced, or left out, or even grants that the city has received. Nobody has been using because they don’t know how to make the application forms,” Vivar said.

Editor Daniel J. Munoz, dmunoz@tapinto.nettwitter.com/DanielMunoz100

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

East Brunswick: The History of... The East Brunswick Grange

April 18, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - During East Brunswick’s agricultural years, one of the most active organizations in town was the East Brunswick Grange. Granges were fraternities for farmers that helped promote the well-being of farming in the community. There were many granges across the country during the late 19th and early 20th Century, and East Brunswick was certainly no exception. In the period ...

Highland Park: Teen Mom Charged in Death of Newborn

HIGHLAND PARK, NJ - In a tragic turn of events, a teenager from Highland Park was charged in a juvenile complaint with murder in the first degree in the death of her newborn son.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey announced today that a 14-year-old teenage girl from Highland Park has been charged with an act of juvenile delinquency for an offense which if committed by an ...

Veinott’s Vietnam – Time Flies When You Fly Away

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – It’s been nearly a decade since South Plainfield native Philip Veinott packed his bags and moved over 8,500 miles away to start the next chapter of his life. And, a lot has changed – both personally and professionally – for Veinott in that time. 

In August 2016, Veinott married the love of his life, Helen Nguyen, and the couple is expecting ...

South Brunswick: Mayor Killmurray’s Funeral Plans Announced, Township Prepares For Administration Change

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Township officials announced funeral plans for Mayor Christopher Killmurray and plans to deal with filling his position and a second one on the Council.

Killmurray, 55, died at home Sunday morning after battling brain cancer for several years.

According to the township, a viewing is scheduled for 3-7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Cecilia’s Roman Catholic Church at ...

South Brunswick: Mayor Christopher Killmurray, 55, Dies

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Township Mayor Christopher Killmurray died at home Sunday morning, officials announced.

In an alert to residents, Township Manager Bernard Hvozdovic said that Killmurray, 55, passed away at home surrounded by his family after battling brain cancer for several years.

A Democrat, Killmurray was first elected to the Township Council in 2003 and served as deputy ...

Mayor Cohen Celebrates Chelsea's 20th Anniversary

April 18, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ -- Mayor Brad Cohen, an enthusiastic supporter of the Chelsea at East Brunswick, was on hand to help mark the Chelsea's 20th anniversary on Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

Mayor Cohen read a proclamation honoring the Chelsea and recalled the experience of his late mother who, at age 102, had hip replacement surgery and lived to be 106. Mayor Cohen is a great friend of the ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, April 21, 8:00 AM

White house at Aldersgate UM Church, East Brunswick

RUMMAGE SALE to benefit the Food Bank

Other

Mon, April 30, 7:00 PM

Somerset Valley Playhouse, Hillsborough

Auditions for Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of ...

Arts & Entertainment

Fri, May 4, 7:30 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

Wizard of Oz

Arts & Entertainment

Reading Like Cats and Dogs: EBPL Launches Second “Reading To Action” Program Series

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) begins its second Reading to Action project, which includes a series of events and volunteer projects this April.

The Reading To Action program encourages library customers to be more active in their community. This year's theme is "animals." The library is presenting a variety of programs for ...

East Brunswick Public Library Screens “Swim Team” Documentary about Autistic Athletes

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—The East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) hosts a screening of the PBS documentary, Swim Team, on Wednesday, April 18 at 6:30 PM. The screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with director Lara Stolman.

Stolman’s inspiring debut documentary, Swim Team, follows three diverse young men—Michael McQuay ...

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (Citadel Press, 1970)

 

How does a reviewer do justice to a book called “the great American novel”? I first read Johnny Got His Gun during the Viet Nam war, when young people, nationwide, were protesting fighting in a war that was a senseless waste of life; a war in which the United States had no business participating.

The Truth About My Reading

The Truth About My Reading

I didn't get my Composition and Literature teacher at Montclair State College at all. A crusty old man with a dour disposition, Mr. Smith always seemed angry and rude. He appropriately intimidated freshmen, even me, an English major, who found this common core course beneath my dignity. Frankly, as a graduate of Highland Park High School, and a survivor of Mrs.

'The Sting' shimmers and shakes at Paper Mill

‘The Sting ‘slithers and shakes at Paper Mill Playhouse

By LIZ KEILL

MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage in Millburn.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and ...