NEWARK, NJ — City council voted to grant a 30-year tax abatement last week to the new owners of 13 decaying apartment buildings in the East and South wards, signaling the onset of a transformation to one of the city’s most neglected neighborhoods. 

Several of the buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue area, commonly referred to as Pueblo City, Center City 3 and Johnson Avenue Apartments, have stood abandoned for several years, accumulating graffiti and attracting squatters. Construction has already begun on some buildings as the developer, Urban Renewal Company LLC, moves forward with the rehabilitation project. 

Some residents, however, expressed concern regarding just how affordable the affordable housing units would remain post-construction for low-income tenants who occupy the units pre-construction. 

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Newarker Donna Jackson stressed the distinction between low-income and affordable housing. 

“As they’re doing renovations across this city, they’re putting people out. A lot of the people in these buildings who have been there 20, 30 years, they’re elders,” Jackson said. 

Christina Cirino, a 5-year tenant of the Astor Street location, told TAPinto the rehabilitation process has been a long stretch of uncertainty. A single mother of three on low-income assistance, she is unsure if she will be able to return to the building after the renovations are complete. 

Cirino said there has been no communication from ownership regarding plans for how they will price the renovated units. 

She currently pays $2,900 for her apartment and says she is concerned about the cost of rent going up. Her oldest child is diagnosed with autism and her youngest also has medical issues, which makes working a challenge. 

“For me to worry about having to struggle to pay more rent, with kids like mine, it’s kind of difficult,” she said. 

East Ward Council Member Augusto Amador said that the rehabilitation of the buildings is a necessary stimulant for much-needed change in the area. 

“At a time when Newark land comes very attractive to investors, we should all be concerned with granting tax abatements to folks. In a case like this, I don’t have any reservations granting a 30-year tax abatement to someone who wants to change the living conditions of probably the worst area in the city of Newark,” Amador said. “It’s considered to be no man’s land, and people in that area are crying for help.”

Amador added council is recommending that the administration establish a small police precinct nearby to curb some of the drug-related activity in the area.