City Funding Error Sidetracks Two Housing Proposals

PATERSON, NJ – Two housing proposals are now in limbo after it turned out that federal funding the city had awarded them had previously been set aside for another project, officials said.

At stake are Zion Community Development Corporation’s plans to build 10 units for low income families in the 5th Ward and the Alpert Group’s proposal to construct 99 apartments in the 6th Ward.

On July 26, the city council approved Community Development Director Lanisha Makle’s recommendation to earmark $2.6 million in federal affordable housing money to Zion Community’s project near the corner of Summer and Pearl streets and $555,491 to the Alpert Group’s project on Gray Street, part of the historic Reinhardt Mills site.

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At that time, the city had a June 20 warning letter from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that said Paterson was in danger of losing $3.1 million in Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME) funds if they were not distributed by July 31.

But a review of city records has confirmed that $2.1 million of the money awarded to Zion and Alpert already was set aside for the New Jersey Community Development Corporation’s construction of 20 transitional housing units for homeless people in the 1st Ward, said Councilman Kenneth Morris.

It’s not clear now what will happen with Zion and Alpert projects.

“We just want to know what money is available,’’ said the Rev. Douglas Maven, president of Zion City. “I haven’t heard anything back from them.’’

Neither Makle nor Business Administrator Charles Thomas returned phone and email messages seeking their comment on the situation.

As chairman of the council’s community development committee, Morris was the one who uncovered the fact that the NJCDC money was being awarded a second time. He said Zion and Alpert could have run into serious financial problems if they spent money that wasn’t available.

Morris called the situation further evidence that Makle was in over her head as the city’s community development director.

Makle is in the middle of another city controversy. She was the official who signed off on the award of $43,000 worth of home repairs for Paterson’s Personnel Director, Betty Taylor, whose salary in that position exceed HUD’s limits.

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