Grants for American Legion to be Abandoned
"Square peg in round hole" project for senior center stalls
Before a packed crowd of senior citizens, the Republican-led River Edge Council with a 3-2 vote has abandoned the Community Development Block Grant funding and application for a senior center at the American Legion building. Voting against the measure were Democrats Sandy Moscaritolo and John Cannon.
"First of all, the building is severely antiquated and does not meet the needs," Councilman Alphonse Bartelloni said."I think its foolish to not have a restroom on the first floor and its foolish to try and fit a square peg into a round hole. This building requires an extensive amount of work. It's foolish to take the $100,000 at this point to limit a building to a senior center that does not meet the needs of the community or our seniors or to apply for the additional grant."
Purchased in 2009 "as is" from the American Legion with the help of a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to rehabilitate, renovate and repair while bringing the structure up to current ADA standards. The Council was considering a CDBG application for $217,000 towards the renovation.
The borough, while it was notified that it had been approved for the $100,000 grant towards the purchase had not yet supplied Bergen County with a deed restriction to receive the funding.
The deed restriction needed to state that the building once opened would only by used by the borough's senior citizens. For the building to be used by any other group outside of the senior citizens, at least 41% of the group need to qualify as low or moderate-income residents.
"Just to be clear the only thing we've decided tonight is to not take the $100,00 and not go after further grant money this year," Councilman Johnny Porco said. "The seniors in my mind are a big part of a big picture in that space along with other groups in town or kids in town. We don't know what we're doing with the building but we are looking at what the options are. I don't think it's a good idea to take the money and then lock ourselves into only using the building for just the seniors and have no real projection of what it's going to cost."
According to Tom Smith, former councilman and borough representative for the Community Development Block Grant funding, the borough will still owe the remaining $425,000 for the purchase of the building.
James Arakelian, also a CDBG representative for River Edge had previously stated that by returning the $100,000 to Community Development during the next round of grant funding applications River Edge may not receive as much grant money.
"It's really easy to lock back and point blame," Councilman John Cannon said. "I'd love to hear an idea of what we're going to do with the building because right now it's nothing. We voted to do absolutely nothing."
"Our seniors deserve their own home," added Councilman Sandy Moscaritolo. "Our seniors pay local, county, state and federal taxes. So why not accept this grant money from the state and federal government. Why let this $100,000 go to another town when our seniors have paid in order to fund these grants."
Mayor Margaret Watkins along with Bartelloni and Councilman Paul Cordts will meet at a later date with Rabbi Neal Borovitz of Temple Avodat Shalom to discuss the continued use by SCORE of the Temple's facilities. The borough currently rents space at the Temple for about $22,000 annually to run senior programs.