Is HUD Offering Paterson $500,000 If City Dismisses Makle?
Friday, October 12, 2012 • 4:35pm
PATERSON, NJ – The federal housing agency is offering Paterson $500,000 to make improvements in the city’s troubled Community Development department, according to municipal officials.
But the money from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reportedly comes with strings attached. What those strings are depends on whom you ask at City Hall.
City Council members say their understanding of the offer is that Paterson would have to make significant changes in management at the Community Development department, including replacing the embattled director, Lanisha Makle.
“That’s not what HUD told me,’’ said Mayor Jeffrey Jones.
Jones asserts that HUD is offering the money on the condition that he abandon his efforts to shift part of the $22 million per year Section 8 rental voucher program from the housing authority control to city government.
HUD has declined to discuss its negotiations with the city.
City Council President Anthony Davis said he met with top HUD officials in Newark on Monday to discuss the $500,000 offer. When asked whether HUD was calling for Makle to be replaced, Davis responded, “Let’s just say that HUD has no confidence in the current administration.’’
Davis said he also discussed with the HUD Paterson’s poor track record with using federal money allocated for city projects, including more than $800,000 in affordable housing grants from 2005 that the city recently had to relinquish.
“We just lost $800,000,’’ said Davis. “That’s horrible.’’ Davis added: “At the end of the day, it’s the people of the city of Paterson who are suffering.’’
Jones acknowledged that HUD “may not be happy” with Makle. But the mayor also questioned HUD’s assessment of his administration’s performance. He said that consultants HUD suggested the city hire have nothing but praise for Makle’s performance.
Moreover, he asserted, HUD currently has the same representative assigned to Paterson who was in the job when millions of dollars of proposed projects didn’t get done. “He was the person who was supposed to be the watchdog over these projects,’’ the mayor said.
“I’m not trying to get in a battle with anybody over this,’’ Jones said. “But I also don’t want to be a victim of people’s conjecture.’’
“With HUD,’’ the mayor added, “it appears as though if you challenge them they want to call you up and you to get with the program.’’
Jones and Davis said the $500,000 would provide the city with technical assistance on the HUD grant and possible cover new equipment and personnel in the community development department, which oversees city housing projects.
Any agreement would need approval of both the city council and the administration. Jones said he’s not inclined to drop his efforts to get part of the Section 8 voucher program shifted to city government. “I’ve got a new economic development director who can use that money to leverage projects,’’ Jones said.
Councilman Kenneth Morris said the city ought to take HUD up on its offer and replace Makle. “Obviously, they recognize her incompetence,’’ said Morris, chairman of the community development committee, who argued that Makle was not qualified for the job ever since she was appointed.
Jones has argued that Morris’ criticism of Makle comes from her refusal to sign off on development plans involving his employer, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, including a hotel that was proposed for property it owns. Morris says those assertions are groundless.