The Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA) was recently notified that it will receive an additional $1,469,266 in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the federal stimulus package. The money will go to various energy efficiency improvements at the five-building, 189-unit Holland Gardens complex on 16th Street in Downtown Jersey City, including the installation of a solar-powered hot water heating system. This complex, like many of the city’s housing properties, is quite old (it was built in 1942) and could desperately use some improvements. The JCHA estimates this round of funding will also create approximately six jobs.
JCHA executive director Maria Maio says that the federal funds are acutely needed as the agency grapples with budget cuts. She says the green initiatives represent long-term cost savings, which enables the JCHA to keep public housing affordable.
“We want to keep as much public housing as we can,” she says. “Keeping these costs down is part of that.”
But keeping costs down isn’t the only benefit to come from environmental upgrades. The residents of public housing, many of whom struggle with asthma and other illnesses, have had negative reactions to traditional cleaning products and paints. So the JCHA is using the federal money to jumpstart a larger green overhaul, which will include using environmentally-friendly paint and cleaning products.
In particular, Maio says, Holland Gardens struggles with a pretty bad rodent problem, mostly due to its location near the mouth of the Holland Tunnel. But the pesticides the agency was using proved to be quite unpopular with the complex’s residents.
“The products that we use cause problems for them,” Maio says, “and then we don’t do the kind of pest control we need to do.” And, because of that, she adds, the rodent problem persists. She says the JCHA hopes to roll out a green pest-management program at that location to help create a “healthier environment.”
The latest injection of federal money brings the JCHA’s total haul from the stimulus package to nearly $10 million. Since March, seven projects at the agency have received a total of $9,339,463. These projects, which the JCHA estimates have or will create 65 jobs, cover everything from administrative costs to demolition to fixing up vacant units to, yes, solar power.
co-founder of the Jersey City Independent; he now works for a public-policy nonprofit in Trenton.