Draft report from DCA’s Housing Task Force infuriates Sierra Club

Having briefly appeased some conservatives, including Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen), with his budget address last month, Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration now faces an uprising from the green wing of the state’s progressives, including the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Outraged by recommendations made by the Housing Policy Task Force to the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA), Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel today lambasted the task force's draft report as the result of hush-hush meetings heldmostly by members of the building, development and real estate industries.

“The entire situation bears a disturbing resemblance to the Cheney Energy Task Force, which held closed-door meetings with fossil fuel industry executives in order to develop national energy policy,” said Tittel, who noted that the committees of the task force did not include environmentalists, community activists, or representatives from other state agencies, such as the Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) or the Department of Transportation (DOT).

“The committees are made up of people who stand to benefit from lax environmental standards and rampant over-development,” the Sierra Club director said. “The Land Use Committee (one of six), for example, is chaired by the head of the Builders’ Association and contains numerous BA members and individuals employed by the
builders. Not only is the fox guarding the henhouse, he’s building it and developing it as well.”

DCA spokesman Chris Donnelly said Tittel's is a harsh, premature and unfair critique of a task force whose work on a draft report to the DCA has been transparent from the start.

“For anyone to imply that the task force, DCA, or Governor Corzine are trying to undermine DEP’s efforts to keep New Jersey environmentally sound are completely disingenuous at best,” Donnelly said in a statement.

“Commissioner (Joseph) Doria (who formed the task force) as well as the members of the task force understand that the effort to provide New Jersey residents with affordable housing and the need to protect the environment are not mutually exclusive and that such issues must be examined further.”

Donnelly said the task force is trying to develop a game plan for affordable as well as low, moderate and workforce priced housing in New Jersey inaccord with the governor’s desire to create 100,000 affordable units in New Jersey within a decade.

Tittel worries that the committee recommendations would give local and state government entities power to green light development projects slowed by environmental concerns, and would give the State Planning Commission the power to block Green Acres from purchasing an environmental site in the event the commission prefers a developer.

“That’s something that needs to be looked at,” said Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Hudson), a longtime adversary of DCACommissioner and former Bayonne Mayor Doria.

“It’s reminiscent of an action taken by Joe Doria when he was mayor, a case involving the North Street condo development, which could have been used for Green Acres but went to a developer instead, over the objections of the town,” said Chiappone.

Also troubling for Tittel is a recommendation that would enable the DCA to assume power now vested in the DEP and the DOT.

“This is the first time that anyone can remember in state history where one department of government wanted to attack and destroy another part of government within the same administration,” said the director, who last year called for an Al Gore-Jon Corzine presidential ticket moments before the governor signed the Global
Warming Response Act.

The task force includes representatives from Homes for New Jersey, the Newark Housing Authority, Lutheran Office of Government Ministries/Anti-Poverty Network, Fair Share Housing, Princeton and Rutgers University, non-profit research, charity and advocacy organizations, municipal officials and professional planners.

“It was made up of those individuals who had an expertise and or strong interest in housing issues in New Jersey,” said Donnelly. “The final report will be presented to the governor and will be the basis for further discussion on affordable housing in New Jersey.” Draft report from DCA’s Housing Task Force infuriates Sierra Club