Other NJ News

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Wisniewski, in Newark, Discusses Urban Housing Issues

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Wisniewski is introduced by Larry Hamm, chair and founder for People's Organization for Progress, at a Town Hall meeting in Newark. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo

NEWARK, NJ - Democratic Assemblyman and New Jersey gubernatorial candidate John Wisniewski campaigned in Newark to talk about the state's housing issues, believing that they should be tackled with a practical approach as part of a progressive agenda. 

"Affordable housing is a moral obligation. We have to address this gap in our humanity," said Wisniewski, of Middlesex County, to a group of more than 30 people assembled in the basement of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark's Central Ward on Monday night, just hours before a major winter blizzard was to blanket Newark in snow.

"We have to call it what it is," Wisniewski said. "We have a foreclosure crisis because we have a greed crisis. We have to make sure that the foreclosure crisis is solved in favor of all of those families that are looking for truly affordable housing." 

Sign Up for E-News

New Jersey's share of distressed properties is the highest percentage in the nation, according to a 2016 national foreclosure report, with Essex County leading the state in foreclosures with 6,367 and a rate of 4.12 percent. 

Affordable housing also remains a major concern throughout the state. In a decision that could reshape hundreds of communities, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in January that municipalities must allow the development of affordable housing for poor and middle-class families whose needs were ignored for more than 16 years, a period when state the Council on Affordable Housing, or COAH, was effectively neutralized by legal and political disputes. 

The decision reaffirmed the Court's commitment to a series of landmark housing rulings in the Mount Laurel cases that date to 1975. For decades, New Jersey justices have said that the state's poorest residents have a right to affordable housing opportunities in their communities and that towns must allow a reasonable level of development. The ruling is likely to be a catalyst for the development of tens of thousands of affordable housing units in New Jersey over the next decade. 

Newark resident Carl Hill asked Wisniewski a question about how addressing affordable housing issues will affect gentrification in the city, which he said "will move people out" as dispossessed homeowners become renters in a market with anticipated higher rental rates. 

Wisniewski answered by promoting his plan to establish a state land trust plan to acquire land rights to where foreclosed properties are located. Wisniewski maintained that funds that had been earmarked for affordable housing that were never used would form the seed money for this program, which would remove the land costs from buying foreclosed properties, therefore facilitating their purchase and future productive use. 

"The land is owned by the state land trust, and the structure is owned by the homeowner," Wisniewski said. "This makes the structure that much cheaper. You want to make sure that somebody gets ownership. This is the first step."

Wisniewski is locked in a Democratic primary battle with several other candidates, including state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D - Union); former Treasury official and federal prosecutor Jim Johnson; and former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy. 

In a speech at the Newark campus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology in September, Murphy proposed the creation of of a public bank, owned by the people of New Jersey, designed to make investments in and for New Jersey.

Murphy said that he believed the creation a public bank would provide capital to communities that have been ignored by the financial system, including minority communities and businesses owned by people of color. 

Wisniewski, however, challenged the concept of a public bank concept, pointing to Trenton's recent record regarding fiscal governance.  

"We have not fully funded our pension obligation for 20 years. We have overspent our Transportation Trust fund for 20 years. We have not fully funded education for the past seven years," Wisniewski said, who has served in the Assembly for 21 years and is a former state Democratic chairman.

"The concept of giving a banking role to the same governmental institutions that have failed us on pensions and education and transportation just worries me," he said.

Throughout Wisniewski's Newark town hall meeting, he repeatedly referred to Wall Street's role in the foreclosure crisis, a not-to-subtle jab at Murphy. In an interview afterwards, Wisniewski questioned the role of money in a primary election process where Murphy, who campaigned extensively in Newark last fall immediately before several major potential rivals declined to enter the race, is widely seen as the front runner. 

"It is not only accepted, but expected that someone will try to buy the nomination," Wisniewski said. "In levels of leadership in our party, there is not any sense of awkwardness at the huge amount of money that trades hands to obtain party support."

The Murphy campaign did not immediately return calls seeking comment. 

The Wisniewski town hall event was hosted by the People's Organization for Progress, a grassroots, community organization based in Newark.

Lawrence Hamm, the New Jersey state chairman and founder of the organization, noted that his personal support for Wisniewski's gubernatorial is based on Wisniewski's support for former presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Wisniewski was the New Jersey chairman for Sanders' 2016 campaign. 

"The question is how the Sanders supporters become a political force that can push the Democratic Party in a progressive direction," said Hamm, who noted that Wisniewski has addressed his organization four times. "The first step was the Sanders campaign. Wisniewski's campaign here in New Jersey is another step along that path." 

Sanders has declined to endorse any candidate in the 2017 New Jersey Democratic primary, to be decided in June. But Wisniewski said that he wants voters to based their decision not on his support for Sanders, but on his qualifications for the job. 

"I want to make it clear - I supported Bernie Sanders, but this is not Bernie Sanders 2.0. This is New Jersey, and I'm a New Jersey progressive," Wisniewski said. "The progressive message in particular appeals to urban areas because it fundamentally deals with a rigged system that doesn't work for everybody in America or New Jersey." 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Like

Sign Up for E-News

Edison

Upcoming Events

Fri, October 20, 8:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

Tango Buenos Aires

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, October 21, 9:00 AM

South County Park, Lambertville

Flemington Speedway Historical Society Annual Car ...

Arts & Entertainment Other

Sat, October 21, 9:00 AM

South County Park, Lambertville

Flemington Speedway Historical Society Annual Car ...

Arts & Entertainment Other

Letter to the Editor

October 19, 2017

 This month, I have completed my sixth and final year as president of Edison Angels Girls Softball. During six years,  Edison Angel’s Board of Directors made needed improvements to the program and facilities that would make the complex a premiere location, which would attract national college showcases from around the country. The complex has become a stage for young athletes to ...

Metuchen BOE Candidate Supports Full-time Counselor at Campbell School

October 13, 2017

Campbell Elementary School needs a full-time School Guidance Counselor. As a School Counselor for 11 years and a Guidance Counseling Supervisor for two years, I know that meeting a student’s psychological, emotional, career, and college needs is what it’s all about. The health and safety of our children are more important than anything else we will ever discuss regarding our ...

Edison BOE: The 2 to vote 4!

Carol Bodofsky and Elizabeth Conway for Edison BOE

We have been Edison residents for over 30 years and have recently retired as Edison teachers.  We know how our town works, and we also know education. That’s why we are running for the Edison Board of Education this November. Carol Bodofsky and Elizabeth Conway – the 2 to vote 4!

We have been attending Edison school board ...

Brian Glassberg for Metuchen Board of Education

I'm a lifelong Metuchenite, educator and father running for the School Board to help implement a smart growth plan that includes preparing for an increase in population and implementing full-day Kindergarten. I believe in transparency and will work to improve the board website and its communication with the public. As a guidance counseling supervisor, I know the academic, physical, and ...

Spirit Ride Processional Begins in Piscataway; Raises Awareness for ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ Law

October 19, 2017

PISCATAWAY, NJ – Area tow truck drivers, fire fighters, police officers, and EMS operators joined in the 2017 American Towman Spirit Ride procession through Middlesex County on Wednesday, honoring the memories of first responders who lost their lives in road-side accidents while in the line of duty, and bringing awareness to New Jersey’s ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ law.

The ...

Former Governor Whitman Honored at Great Swamp Watershed Gala Celebration

October 13, 2017

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman was the honored guest at the Great Swamp Watershed Association 2017 Gala Celebration held Thursday night at the Brooklake Country Club.

Chatham residents turned out for the fundraiser that supports the yearly budget of the association, which is "dedicated to protecting and improving the water resources of the ...

Free Diabetes Self-Management Workshop Series Offered in Edison

October 20, 2017

Quality Insights Quality Innovation Network, supported locally by Healthcare Quality Strategies, Inc. (HQSI), is partnering with Middlesex County Office of Health Services to provide free diabetes workshops as part of the Everyone with Diabetes Counts (EDC) program. The EDC program is a national initiative of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The program offers free ...

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard with Lauren Zigman

(Penguin Books, 2017)

 

Cake or death? If you are a fan of the British comic/actor Eddie Izzard, you probably own a teeshirt with a blue cupcake on it with one of Izzard's signature lines from his fabulous standup routines. To see Eddie Izzard in concert is an experience in hilarity that one ...

Paying tribute to 'Shakespeare in Love'

Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey pays tribute to ‘Shakespeare in Love’

By Liz Keill

MADISON, NJ – Many audiences loved the film version of “Shakespeare in Love,” which won the best picture Academy Award in 1999, with dialogue by Marc Noonan and Tom Stoppard. Adapted by Lee Hall for the stage, much of the dialogue remains. The production has a warmth and ...