Newark is knocking down eyesores to help create 16,000 new, affordable housing units for residents –

Harold Judd eyed Newark’s West Side Village apartment complex in the distance recently as he walked around a nearby running track.

A chain-link fence enclosed the 48-unit property left vacant since 2016. Authorities sealed its windows and doors years ago, and empty boxes, bottles, an upturned card table and other debris littered its overgrown courtyards.

Judd, 74, said they’re all positive signs.

“That means somebody’s doing the right thing, to knock it down,” said Judd, a retired printer. “But they need to build new ones.”

And that’s the plan.

West Side Village is slated for demolition next month, as one of three vacant and dilapidated Newark Housing Authority properties the agency is planning to knock down this year and redevelop in conjunction with private developers.

The redeveloped properties will help meet Mayor Ras Baraka’s commitment to creating 16,000 public housing units, a figure based on a Rutgers University study of the city’s affordable housing shortage, said housing authority director Victor Cirilo.

In addition to West Side Village, the city is redeveloping two other NHA properties — Seth Boyden Court, a 530-unit complex in the South Ward vacant since 2015, and the Terrell Homes, a mold-infested 275-unit development in the East Ward.

Cirilo and others say demolition is a necessary precursor to a property’s redevelopment, and it’s a positive step that erases the message of neglect and decay the unsightly buildings send to residents, business owners, and others in their surrounding neighborhoods.

“These properties have become eyesores,” Cirilo said. “So, in addition to the need for affordable housing, we are under a very tight time frame for cleaning up and redeveloping the properties.”

The mayor, city council, and New Jersey governor control the housing authority, which is well-positioned to help clean up and redevelop Newark as the owner of 45 properties with 9,000 affordable housing units.

The agency also provides federally funded Section 8 vouchers to subsidize rents of another 6,000 privately owned apartments. With an average of three residents per apartment, that means the agency houses roughly 50,000 people or 16% of Newark’s 311,000 residents.

Boyden Court’s redevelopment is the largest and most ambitious of the three. Baraka highlighted the $5.2 million demolition project at a groundbreaking last month when he took the controls of a backhoe belonging to Manhattan-based contractor Perdomo and punched its big steel arm through a brick wall.

The City Council declared the 15-acre Boyden property blighted and named the housing authority the redevelopment agency for the site. Based on a request for proposals, the housing authority hired New Brunswick-based Boraie Development as the site’s designated developer.

Cirilo and developer Wasseem Boraie said the project’s first phase would include hundreds of mixed-income housing units, most of them affordable and the rest market-rate, possibly some for sale.

Authorities will expand the site by 2.5 acres under a plan to acquire an adjacent school property from the Newark Board of Education in exchange for a comparable nearby property where authorities will build a new school. A second phase would include a supermarket and a healthcare facility. Boraie projected the overall cost at $150 million.

Boraie is known for his collaborations with Shaquille O’Neill on a pair of high-rise apartments Downtown. The developer said the NBA legend and Newark native would play an active role in the Boyden project.

“His team is going to be involved in a much more hands-on way,” Boraie said. Referring to the educational and medical facilities in phase 2, he added, “Something Shaquille wants to be involved in is ‘eds and meds.’”

Boraie said he’s hoping to have the development agreement in place and begin construction of phase 1 sometime in 2023, with completion 14 months later.

Not Fit for a Dance Video

Boyden Court is at Newark’s southern end, almost at the border with Elizabeth, in a neighborhood bounded on one side by the Essex county golf course in Weequahic Park and on the other by Frelinghuysen Avenue and an industrial area abutting the vast Port Newark shipping complex.

Just off Frelinghuysen, 20-year-old Richard Jones sat on the stoop of his apartment on Dayton Street, overlooking Boyden’s dormant smokestack and gutted buildings, which were built in 1939 and vacated in 2015 due to high crime and maintenance costs.

The area looked so bad that Jones gave up on using Boyden as a backdrop for one of his instructional hip-hip dance videos.

“I was walking over there, trying to find an area for a video on my YouTube Channel, and I couldn’t even find any good spots for a clean background,” said Jones, who goes by the stage name Jersey Made Rich.

“It kind of tears down the image of the South Ward,” said Jones. “It attracts a lot of squatters and drugs. So, knocking it down, that’ll probably improve the image of the area.”

As he spoke, a PSE&G crew was on Frelinghuysen Avenue removing a gas line to clear the way for the rest of the demolition, which Cirilo said would take more than two months.

The sooner, the better, said Tasia Ward, who lives at Seth Boyden Elderly, a high-rise adjacent to Boyden Court restricted to seniors and people with disabilities.

Ward, 37, who has various health issues, has lived at Boyden Elderly for six years, wondering all the while when the crumbling complex next door would be taken down and something useful put in its place, preferably housing.

“It’s a long time coming,” Ward said. “Right now, it’s an eyesore, and a lot of people who don’t have homes could be living there.”

Seth Boyden Court rendering

A rendering of what the residential phase of the Newark Housing Authority’s Seth Boyden Court property will look like after the vacant buildings now on the site are demolished and new apartments are built by New Brunswick-based Boraei Development.Boraie Development

Demolishing A Village To Save It

West Side Village consists of nine 3-story buildings constructed in 1986 and vacated just 30 years later due to buckling floors, leaky roofs, and other problems linked to poor construction, Cirilo said.

Demolition is scheduled to start this month, after which Elizabeth-based MAR Acquisition Group is to redevelop the site in two phases, with a total of 176 senior apartments, plus an on-site healthcare facility.

Frank Boulware, 59, is an Essex County employee in charge of maintaining West Side Park across the street. He lives in Newark with his 6-year-old granddaughter, Annie, and occasionally takes her to the park to play. But he’s bothered by the message the empty buildings send to her and other children.

“It’s terrible,” Boulware said. “They’re making the city look bad.”

Annie said they remind her of the horror films her cousin plays when he babysits.

“Sometimes I feel a little scared,” seeing the apartments, Annie said on an unusually mild day at the park last week.

Kalif Atwater, a 39-year-old truck driver who was doing stretches on the running track, said he wished there were more homes being built for sale in Newark, as opposed to rentals.

Atwater was glad to hear that might be the case at Seth Boyden. But he said he’d already been approved for a home loan and was shopping for a place in Irvington, where there seemed to be more houses for sale.

“By the time they build that, I’ll probably have my house,” he said.

Frank Boulware with grandchildren Tyri and Annie

Frank Boulware and his grandchildren, Tyri and Annie, visited West End Park in Newark on a seasonably mild February day. The abandoned West End Village apartment complex, its windows and doors sealed with concrete, is visible across the street.Steve Strunsky | NJ Advance Media For

An Isolated Corner of The Ironbound

The Terrell Homes are a dozen four-story buildings that sit between the Passaic River and Raymond Boulevard in an isolated corner of the city’s Ironbound section, a neighborhood best known for its vibrant Portuguese and Brazilian nightspots around Ferry Street.

The complex, built in 1946, is prone to flooding and is plagued by mold. Following its demolition later in the year, Cirilo said The Alpert Group of Fort Lee would redevelop the site in two phases, starting with a 69-unit senior residence and then another 206 affordable units that will not be age-restricted.

Only one of the 12 buildings remains occupied, with some of the dozen families living there awaiting relocation to other NHA properties. Others will stay on-site in another building now being temporarily rehabilitated, where they will live until moving into newly constructed units.

A few cars sat along the broad central driveway, and a handful of residents who declined to talk were gathered at an open doorway.

Otherwise, the Terrell Homes felt like an urban ghost town, with ground-floor windows covered over and few signs of life even on a Spring-like day.

Zenobia Winbush, 38, an unemployed shipping clerk, walked across the complex toward the Liz Supermarket on Chappel Street. Winbush, who had lived at Terrell for six years, was awaiting relocation.

Her 14-year-old daughter went to stay with her grandmother in Newark after the mold made her sick. Winbush could hardly wait to get out, too.

“It’s old, it’s molded,” she said. “They need to tear this down.”

Terrell Homes rendering

A rendering of what the Newark Housing Authority’s Terrell Homes site is envisioned to look like after he Alpert Group demolishes and redevelops it.The Alpert Group

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