Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paterson Seeks More Time for Flood Buyouts

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paterson Seeks More Time for Flood Buyouts

Article excerpt

PATERSON - In an effort to avoid losing some of the $5.6 million federal officials awarded the city for buyouts of flood-prone properties, city officials have asked for an extension of the spending deadline.

So far, officials said, the city has closed on just nine properties among the 42 locations covered in Paterson's 2012 agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which provided funding for acquisitions on the city's Northside in the aftermath of the historic post-Tropical Storm Irene floods.

The federal agency set a May 2015 deadline for the city to spend the money, said Joyce Hunt, a management specialist in the city's community development department. The $5.6 million is supposed to cover property acquisitions as well as administrative costs.

It's unclear exactly how much remains of the funds to spend. Last year, the City Council authorized the city to purchase two groups of properties - 12 for $1.15 million and 11 for $718,000. That would leave more than $3 million on the table.

"We shouldn't always have to wait until the eleventh hour to move forward on these things," said the Rev. James Staton, head of the 1st Ward Community Development Corp. "The city has lost federal money before by not acting quickly enough," he said. "Well, here we go again."

Former Mayor Jeffery Jones' administration came under sharp criticism for its handling of the flood buyout program, largely because it picked vacant properties for acquisition and because the sites were scattered around the neighborhood rather than grouped together along the Passaic River.

Mayor Joey Torres said his staff is hiring a consultant to work on the buyouts to try to get them done by the federal deadline.

"One of the first things I did as mayor was sit down with the people from FEMA, and I think they understand that there's been a change in administration and we're going to get this done," Torres said. …

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