Seven years after suffering extensive damage from Superstorm Sandy, the Hoboken American Legion 107 cut the ribbon today to officially open a new building that will contain a community center and house homeless veterans in six apartment units.
The American Legion wants to eventually expand the number of housing units to 18 by building a new extension, but the land adjacent to the new building is city-owned property, currently a parking lot, which would require city council and mayoral approval.
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) attended the ribbon cutting and noted how he was able to secure the necessary vouchers in Congress that will help offset the homeless veterans’ monthly rent.
“The completion of this new headquarters, which includes a community center and housing for homeless veterans, is yet another milestone in Post 107’s storied history, as one of American Legion’s longest serving, most distinguished chapters. This is going to make a difference in the lives of veterans,” began Menendez.
“In 2015 I was proud to support Post 107’s application for six vouchers to create permanent housing for homeless veterans right here at this headquarters. And as the senior democrat on the Housing sub-committee, I’m ready to support you in round two so we can create more housing.”
After the event, we spoke to Hoboken Council President Jen Giattino, and based on her remarks, there’s a good chance that the legion will be able to acquire the property from the city to build the additional units.
“I can see no better use for that land to house homeless vets. For anyone serving this country to leave and then have to come back and be homeless is completely unacceptable, and we as a society have to do anything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Giattino said in an interview.
Apparently, it was no easy task to come up with the money required to rebuild post 107’s headquarters, which was devastated after Superstorm Sandy flooded Hoboken in 2012.
In an on-camera interview, the Commander of Post 107 John Carey, told us that it cost approximately $3.2 million to construct its new headquarters.
Despite Post 107 having a $1 million deficit, it was able to see the construction through to completion thanks to, for starters, an $800,000 check from the Hudson County executive’s office, followed by $25,000 from the New Jersey American Legion, $200,000 from Weehawken and the rest of the money raised from donations across the state and country.
During the speakers portion of the event, Carey asked Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner to come up to speak as a way of demonstrating the legion’s gratitude for the mayor of a neighboring town to donate a generous sum.
“I was asked why Weehawken would donate $200,000 it’s because homelessness in general is not just one municipality’s problem and in particular veteran homelessness is not one municipality’s problem. So, it’s a great pleasure to have the Weehawken community to participate in this project,” said Turner.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla credited former Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise for taking up the pledge in 2015 by former First Lady Michelle Obama to end veterans homelessness.
“I’m proud to have taken up that pledge when I came into office last year, and there are no better people to partner with as we continue to combat homelessness in Hoboken than our dedicated members of the American Legion,” said Bhalla.
And former Mayor Zimmer recounted the devastation of the Hoboken American Legion post after Superstorm Sandy.
“I am so glad that working together we were able to facilitate not only rebuilding in a more resilient way, but also to provide essential affordable housing for our veterans through a partnership with the Hoboken Shelter,” said former Zimmer.
We live streamed the entire event to our Facebook Page, which can be viewed below: