Garcia said that when he takes the job, he hopes to clean up the illegal drug situation in the projects and to improve the quality of life there.
The appointment is not yet official, nor has Garcia set a date as to when he will leave his City Hall job to make the transition.
The announcement was made by DiVincent, who was responsible for the appointment, during Tuesday evening's monthly HHA commissioners meeting.
At the same meeting, the public also became aware of the HHA's intention to open up its wait list for family-unit apartments on Monday, Sept. 10.
There is a twist: former Hoboken residents who may have been pushed out by high housing prices will be given special preference, as will existing residents. (See sidebar inside.)
The HHA is a federally-funded agency overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that runs 1,353 units of subsidized low-income housing in Hoboken.
No deadline has been set for applications by the executive director, who said, "The list will remain open for an undetermined period of time until a sufficient amount of applications are received," which he estimates at 500 applications.
After spending more than six years as director of health and human services for the city of Hoboken, Carmelo Garcia has decided to shift his attention to the community from which he is a product.
"It's always been a dream of mine to really change the dynamics of the Hoboken Housing Authority, transform the culture that currently exists there, and create a healthy lifestyle for the people of public housing," Garcia said. Garcia intends to stop the drug culture that has permeated some parts of the HHA community.
The anticipated move, however, will mean a slight pay reduction for the new deputy director, whose current annual salary of $115,000 will be reduced to approximately $105,000 as deputy director.
Neither Garcia nor DiVincent would comment as to how long it will be before Garcia ascends to the position of executive director.
In recent years, Garcia obtained the proper certification for the position. Garcia earned a public housing authority executive director certification license from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and a public housing manager certificate from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment.
According to DiVincent, Garcia has been acting as a liaison between the federally funded agency and the municipality for over a year, and possesses the necessary qualifications for such a post.
"Carmelo has been a candidate for a while in my mind, he's well qualified, and I look forward to bringing him in to work at the Authority," said DiVincent. "In the future, Carmelo will move into the executive director position."
DiVincent has managed the authority part-time while still running authorities in Weehawken and West New York, after Hoboken lost its previous director. The previous director allegedly left major financial problems that DiVincent was forced to remedy.
Prior to Garcia's appointment, no one had filled the deputy director title, according to DiVincent, though Colin Vice has been serving as DiVincent's top assistant.
Many of Vice's roles, such as tenant relations and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Authority, will soon be under Garcia's jurisdiction. Vice will continue to work for DiVincent training building managers and compiling record folders on residents, which is required by HUD.
Unlike DiVincent, Garcia will be able to work at the HHA on a full-time basis.
DiVincent said that in the past, Garcia's salary would have been applied to building reserves for renovation projects, but because of the current financial stability the HHA enjoys, the funds can be used for their designated purpose.
Who will get City Hall job?
Mayor David Roberts reacted to Garcia's appointment by saying, "Carmelo has been aspiring to this position for some time now, and I wish him luck."
Roberts refused to comment further on the situation and would not say whom he is considering as a replacement for Garcia in City Hall.
Garcia will continue to serve as an unpaid member of the Hoboken Board of Education. (For a story on the most recent board meeting, see page 5.)
A change to the application process
For the first time ever, former Hoboken residents who had lived in town for five years or more will be given a preference on the Hoboken Housing Authority list, allowing them to shorten their wait time, which according to DiVincent could be anywhere between eight and 10 years.
"We found that a lot of people in Hoboken were forced out over the years because they couldn't afford it," said DiVincent. "This [preference] gives [former residents] a sort of credit for their time spent [in Hoboken], allowing them to return home."
HHA Commissioner Perry Belfiore characterized the new measure as a "right of return for individuals displaced by gentrification."
He added, "This is so that the people who held Hoboken together for so many years, who lived here when nobody wanted to, can now return home and enjoy some of the fruits of their labor."
DiVincent said that residents will not have to give a reason for their departure, but will have to prove residency. To find out more, call (201) 798-3700 or stop by the HHA's main office at 400 Harrison St. between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Michael Mullins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Definition
Hoboken Housing Authority - The HHA is a federally-funded agency overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that runs 1,353 units of subsidized low-income housing in Hoboken's southwest area. It is managed by a paid executive director and seven unpaid volunteers on the Board of Commissioners. Of the HHA's seven volunteer commissioners, one is appointed by the mayor, one by the governor, and five by the City Council. The HHA manages and operates six public housing developments consisting of three family complexes (903 units) and three senior citizen buildings (450 units).
The current waitlist to get into the Hoboken Housing Authority's government-subsidized units is comprised of over 100 names, according to DiVincent, with only a few Hoboken residents at the top. The remainder are out-of-towners primarily from Jersey City.
Having preference status adds points to a person's application. The individual with the most points goes to the top of the list. Other HHA application preferences include being a resident of Hoboken, working within the city, being a victim of domestic abuse, and having veteran's status.
Although there is no way to accurately predict how long it will take to get an apartment, DiVincent said on average he estimates the wait to be between eight and 10 years.
The first 30 to 40 individuals on the list are likely to receive apartments within the first year due to the approximately 40 vacated apartments, some of which are still under construction, while others are slated to be occupied by existing tenants who have filed for a transfer.
Though anyone above the age of 18 is eligible, individuals with prior violent-crime or drug related offenses are prohibited, said DiVincent.
Residents who are accepted will pay 30 percent of their total combined income and will have an option to request a one, two, or three-bedroom apartment. - MM