In a continuing commitment to strengthening Meadowlands municipalities, the NJMC's Board of Commissioners voted last week to provide $1.4 million in direct aid to district towns.
"As a former mayor, I know that police vehicles, ambulances, salt sheds, and storm water pumps are critical to reliable municipal services," said NJMC Chairman Susan Bass Levin. Levin is also commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the former mayor of Cherry Hill. "I am pleased that we can work hand in hand with district towns to provide funding to reduce property taxes and ensure the quality of life for Meadowlands residents."
These funds will be directed to the NJMC Municipal Assistance Program (MAP), which has been in existence since December, 2002, bringing the total for local assistance to $5 million. The MAP program is designed to assist Meadowlands towns with the purchase of equipment, studies, and renovations.
As part of this assistance, the municipalities of Carlstadt, East Rutherford, Kearny, Little Ferry, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, North Bergen, Ridgefield, Rutherford, South Hackensack, and Teterboro would be designated to receive equipment ranging from police vehicles and ambulances to storm water pumps and a generator, as well as other services and aid.
"Depending on how the towns decide to use the money, we are looking at helping the Meadowlands towns purchase a total of about 15 police vehicles, three anti-flooding projects, two ambulances, a pickup truck, a generator, athletic field lighting, a salt shed, and park renovations," said NJMC Executive Director Robert Ceberio.
For Secaucus, the aid may allow the town to create a new emergency service department that would provide ambulance service as a municipal service.
"Our contract with Jersey City Medical Center is up in eight months," said Secaucus Town Administrator Anthony Iacono. "This money could be put towards the purchase of an ambulance if we decide to take the service in-house."
Iacono said the matter is currently under review, but could promise to become a boon for the municipal budget since taking back the service would reduce the cost and increase total services to local residents.
Supports affordable housing in Meadowlands
The Meadowlands Commission also approved a resolution that solidifies their support for affordable housing in the Meadowlands.
The resolution sets out policy goals that will be developed in close cooperation with the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and the mayors of the Meadowlands municipalities.
"Governor McGreevey and I are committed to creating a sound and lasting affordable housing policy for the Meadowlands District," said Levin.
Levin is also Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).
"Given the nature of the Meadowlands Commission, its unique zoning powers and its strong partnership with district towns, the Meadowlands has a unique opportunity to develop an affordable housing plan that will greatly benefit the future of the entire region," Levin said. "With this resolution, we are one step closer to providing quality, affordable housing for District residents."
The resolution sets out seven policy goals that will enhance the provision of affordable housing throughout the Meadowlands District:
First, the new NJMC Master Plan and District Zoning Regulations will be amended to include language that supports affordable housing in the Meadowlands in accordance with COAH rules.
Second, the district's zoning regulations will allow the Meadowlands Commission to review towns' petitions for rezoning in order to accommodate affordable housing.
Third, the NJMC will prepare a memorandum of understanding with COAH to create a regional approach to affordable housing for towns in the Meadowlands.
Fourth, the NJMC will work with the Hackensack Meadowlands Municipal Committee to create an affordable housing policy.
Fifth, the NJMC will assist the Meadowlands towns in complying with the new COAH rules by improving the housing elements of the master plan, working on fair share plans for certification or re-certification, and by providing technical and possibly financial assistance to the municipalities to plan for affordable housing.
Sixth, the NJMC will pursue an amendment to the Fair Housing Act, or possibly COAH's rules, to permit the creation of a regional development fee bank to assist municipalities that do not have an established development fee ordinance of their own.
Seventh, the NJMC will establish economic incentive - through the Intermunicipal Tax Sharing Formula - to encourage municipalities to provide affordable housing within the district.
"The NJMC is committed to accomplishing these goals for affordable housing, and at the same time, is committed to protecting our wetlands, open space, and environmentally sensitive areas," said Levin. Secaucus, according to Mayor Dennis Elwell, is the only town in the Meadowlands with its own Affordable Housing Board, thus putting it in a better position to regulate affordable housing in its community.
"Without it, we would have people from outside our community telling us what we would have to do," Elwell said. "Because we had the foresight to establish our own in the mid-1990s, we are in a good position."