Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) joined colleagues Raj Mukherji, Annette Chaparro (both D-33), Yvonne Lopez (D-19), and Cleopatra Tucker (D-28) to tour Hoboken American Legion Post 107 to kick off Memorial Day Weekend.
“We built a new post with apartments for homeless veterans and we’re continuing this process, presently working on three other posts in the state, taking the example we started with here,” Hoboken American Legion Post 107 Commander John Carey said at the press event.
When Coughlin asked Carey where the other location would be, he said Westfield, Montclair, and South Amboy – the latter of which is in the 19th District that Coughlin and Lopez represent.
New Jersey American Legion Commander Daniel Dunn added that they are hoping to break ground on that location within the next year.
Carey noted that while fundraising efforts have been strong, they project is essentially at a standstill without state vouchers.
“We need vouchers: we’re in bad shape without vouchers,” he said and that point was echoed by Post 107 Financial Officer Mark Villamar after explaining that the post building used to be a one-story garage destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“Through the vision of Commander Carey and some help from the City of Hoboken, and others, we were able to formulate a plan to rebuild the post utilizing some of the parking lot that’s just to the east, that’s city-owned, and to create a vibrant, storm sustainable post, as well as housing for homeless veterans,” Villamar stated.
“We were able to secure six vouchers only, we originally wanted 24, we got the six vouchers and decided to break the project into two phases.”
Coughlin replied that they have five Assembly members committed to helping veteran causes, with Mukherji noting that there is a bill that could help them get the 18 remaining vouchers for their cause.
“We actually passed a law a couple years ago, maybe three or four years ago, requiring the DCA to set aside vouchers, Project 8 vouchers, for the development of units that will help combat veteran homelessness,” he explained.
“And then we had a separate waiting list legislation that was enacted that would require, and this wouldn’t effect this project, but it moved veterans up on the waiting list for affordable housing across the state.”
He continued that the first bill hasn’t actually been implemented yet, but believes that it will be after being brought to the attention of Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (D), who is also the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
After their remarks concluded, the veterans showed the electeds and reporters what a furnished apartment looks like, noting that local businesses and charities donated furniture for the apartments, which also have a full kitchen, living room, and bedroom.
“It was a pleasure to be here, a real privilege to be here as we kick off Memorial Day weekend when we pause to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice but it also gives us a chance to celebrate veterans and this was a good way to start that off,” Coughlin told HCV in an interview.
“This is just a terrific program and the folks here at the American Legion Post deserve an awful lot of credit for coming up with a way to bring themselves together as a veteran unit, but more importantly, to help homeless vets throughout the community.”
Others in attendance included New Jersey American Legion Vice Commander Jack Dunne, Hoboken 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino.