At least 30 homes have been identified for acquisition by the state for flood control efforts along the Rahway River watershed.
At its Oct. 13 meeting, City Council approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to accept applications for properties to be acquired by the state through negotiations with property owners.
Once properties are acquired and vacated, the state would contract to demolish the homes and the city would assume maintenance of the properties. The agreement allows properties to “remain in their natural state as open space” but the city can use them for “passive recreational purposes not inconsistent with the purposes of the state acquisition program.”
To qualify for the DEP program, homes had to have been substantially damaged in Hurricane Sandy and adjacent to a floodway, according to Cynthia Solomon, director of the Division of Community Development. For the state program, DEP wanted properties to be in clusters of more than one home and severely damaged as per an engineer’s report, she said. The program is strictly voluntary, Solomon said, and residents who expressed interest in selling were briefed about the process during meetings a year ago. About 60 to 70 properties applied initially, which were narrowed to 30 based on the criteria.
Most of the properties are located near the Robinson’s Branch of the Rahway River, starting at Elm Avenue and following the path of the river from Milton Lake Park, across St. Georges Avenue, along Central Avenue. Several Central Avenue homes were acquired and razed more than a decade ago in the area where the Rahway Community Garden is now located, near St. Georges Avenue.
Six adjacent properties along Central Avenue are among the 30 identified in the MOU and the largest group, 11, is located along New Church Street near Veterans Field. Another cluster of eight homes were identified on lower Main Street, along the South Branch of the Rahway River.
Two Hamilton Street homes previously were among four identified for potential acquisition by the Redevelopment Agency to make way for the Hamilton Stage for Performing Arts project but the agency ended up buying only two. The agency in 2011 put off acquiring three homes after buying two in 2010 and razing them for the parking lot adjacent to the Hamilton Stage.
Properties recently razed along West Grand Avenue were acquired and demolished with funds designated for Hurricane Irene, according to Solomon.