Council moves forward on Green Acres plan

The City Council unanimously approved a $1-million application to the state Green Acres program aimed at bringing a pocket park to the corner of Monroe and Essex streets.

Most of the initial, estimated $1 million cost would be for the acquisition of the property, Norwood Auto Parts, 125 Monroe St. State money is being sought to provide about 75 percent of the funding and federal dollars the remaining 25 percent, if all goes according to plan.

Pat McElduff, the owner of Norwood Auto Parts, told the governing body during its Aug. 3 meeting that his property has flooded some four or five times in the last seven or eight years, getting progressively worse each time. He said he met with the city officials last month with the intention of redeveloping the building, aiming to keep the business in Rahway, when the administration suggested possibly acquiring it.

The highest estimates in the application are for acquisition, $732,200 (an approximation by the city assessor); relocation assistance, $100,000, and demolition, $35,000. Remediation costs are estimated at approximately $80,000 in all, based on the assumption that the land is merely historical fill, said Lenore Slothower, adding that no one knows if there are underground oil tanks or other issues. Typically, the city has been able to obtain grant funding for remediation, said Slothower, the former city planner who does some part-time grant-writing for the city.

The city is seeking funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which first must approve the Union County’s hazardous mitigation plan to be eligible for the money. County officials are working to expedite the approval — some 13 counties are ahead of the county for FEMA approval, according to Slothower — with a September deadline looming.

A no-interest, $250,000 loan from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust would ultimately be paid back with FEMA dollars if they come through; otherwise the city would pay back the state loan in installments, according to 6th Ward Councilman Samson Steinman.

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