Federal Hill: A Lesson in Not Taking HUD Grants for Granted

In January of 2013, social media published by CD Publications (a newsletter publisher) reported that the Department of Housing and Urban Development would submit, in April of that year, a new rule proposal targeting massive desegregation of each of the nation’s more than 74,000 census tracts.

 

“The plan, modeled on HUD’s Westchester County, New York [and, specifically, the ironically named city of White Plains] low-income housing mandate, will require that each census tract contain a similar percentage of minority families that now live in a concentrated area of a local or regional government’s jurisdiction. HUD determined that the county’s minority population is 10 percent, mostly concentrated in White Plains and Yonkers [and Yonker’s next-door neighbor, Mount Vernon.”

 

“While Westchester’s minority populations are miniscule, making it easier to apply sanctions on a percentage basis, it remains unclear how HUD would determine percentages to be applied to census tracts when minority populations in urban settings surpass the surrounding white populations by a large margin, such as Detroit.

 

“Under the proposal, any unit of local government that receives, or has received, any federal subsidy that specifies the application of housing provisions, such as Community Development Block Grants, must provide that it followed HUD’s requirements to provide housing for poor minority families. Failure to provide such proof would subject municipalities to the loss of subsidies or require equivalent housing for the minority poor in each of their census tracts – each contract contain[ing] about 4,000 residents.

 

“HUD kept its new plan under wraps for more than a year by delaying a release of its semi-annual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. Sources tell [the authors of this particular publication, HAL], the Obama Administration deliberately withheld the Spring 2012 Unified Agenda (UA) because of the political volatility of some of the proposals.  The Office of Budget Management (OMB) delayed release of the Fall 2012 UA until after the November elections for the same reason.  The UA was finally released late [on] Dec. 21, after government operations were shut down for the Christmas holiday, keeping the issues well under the political radar.”

 

The newsletter went on to report:

 

“Calling it a new approach, HUD will apply the lessons learned from its Westchester County experience. The affluent New York City suburb [an entire county, actually], was taken to task in 2009 for failu7re to sufficiently apply its CDBG grants to provide housing for the poor.  A New York Metro fair housing organization sued [the county] in 2006 under the 1863 Federal False Claims Act, known as the Lincoln Law, which allows private parties to recover triple damages from anyone who fraudulently takes federal money.

 

“A federal judge found the county had failed to meet the pre-conditions of $52 million in CDBG awards by failing to analyze impediments to fair housing based on race and … misrepresented its efforts to desegregate overwhelmingly white communities when it applied for the revenue sharing.

 

The original 2009 lawsuit was brought by a Leftist housing activist husband-and-wife team, Greg and Lori Gurian, who charged Westchester County with falsely stating they were affirmatively furthering fair housing. Westchester County lost the case, the Gurians walked away with $7.5 million, and HUD had its legal groundwork for proposing Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, not to be confused with the Affordable Housing Act of 1968.

 

AFFH pushes the progressive agenda farther. Much, much farther.

 

The New AFFH rules for grant money require any municipality accepting the grant money to police itself for violations of the AFFH’s definition barriers or impediments to furthering fair housing by analyzing its demographics in comparison to nearby cities:

 

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • National origin
  • English proficiency
  • Class
  • Zoning Laws
  • Public Housing Admissions Criteria
  • Lack of Regional Collaboration

 

And community assets, such as:

 

  • Quality schools
  • Transportation hubs
  • Public parks
  • Jobs

 

If a suburban municipality that has accepted HUD grants lacks any of these “amenities” the community must provide them, at its own tax-payers’ expense.

 

Most of northern New Jersey’s northern suburban communities have accepted these grants – and continue to do so – making them vulnerable to federal lawsuits if they don’t comply with HUD’s standards. Hence, the recent cropping up of Transportation or Commuter Hubs, Consumer Hubs, and Higher Education Hubs.  These are all mini-cities built to meet HUD’s conditions for destroying the suburbs.

 

So what’s the big attraction to Federal Hill, which the Meer family sold out to Tilcon and to U.S. Concrete? Passaic County Community College in Wanaque, of course, which is right across Union Avenue (and Upper Twin Lake) from the current quarry and proposed Affordable Housing development, and the two entrances to Interstate 287.

 

At previous meetings, the town council claimed that the property could be used for an industrial park. That must have been before the 2008 meltdown, which gave northern New Jersey a surplus of vacant industrial parks.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency was instrumental in having an area of town declared an “urban blight zone” in the semi-rural town of Bloomingdale. The site was previously used as a motorcycle track by local teenagers and consequently, a dump.  That was all the EPA needed to help Bloomingdale’s regulators meet the requirements for building Avalon Bay.

 

The townspeople were basically jittered into accepting Avalon Bay. If they didn’t consent to this building, worse could come:  HUD could demand that the Meer Tract be developed.  However, back in 1996, when Route 287 was completed (“intended to result in improved regional access to and from Bloomingdale and its surrounding communities”), the Tilcon quarry and the Meer Tract were identified as an Economic Planning Area intended to increase tax revenue, utilize and redevelop vacant sites, and provide appropriate options for senior citizens, and the planning board recommended permitting residential development for the Meer Tract, and light industrial corporate use for the quarry area.

 

In 2007, the Planning Board “re-examined its goals” which now included:

 

  • Increasing tax revenue
  • Providing for low and moderate-income housing in a strategic manner complying with state legislative objectives and court mandates

 

By 2013, now that AFFH had been implemented, the Planning Board presented its “Open Space Plan”:

 

  • Open space has been acquired in the Federal Hill area including [three parcels]
    • The Bicoastal (U.S. Concrete) tract
    • The Higgens and Peragallo Tract
    • Provide 104.6 contiguous acres of open space
  • Preservation of the Meer Tract and Tilcon Quarry are not “feasible”
    • Notes lands will be quarried
    • Reclamation Plan may include open spaceAmong the Town Planning Board’s many 2014 Master Plan Goals:
  • Establish appropriate population density that contributes to the well-being of the community and region
  • Plan for local economic sustainability
  • Encourage Smart Growth principles in areas deemed appropriate for development

 

But Bloomingdale was in violation of the Highland Council Goals, which included preservation of contiguous areas of land in its natural state and protect natural, scenic, and other resources of the Highlands Region. Bloomingdale had the Superior Court of New Jersey on its side now:

 

“The purpose of the Quarry Overlay District is to implement an Order of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, and Passaic County for the development of affordable housing. The court recognized the potential to assist the provision of affordable housing on the Meer Tract, in conjunction with the existing Tilcon Quarry Tract.  The Court found that quarrying and related uses are not inconsistent with inclusionary development.”

 

“The district recognizes the existing quarry operation within the Borough [of Bloomingdale] and the need for affordable housing. Due to the presence of a natural resource suitable for the mining, the Quarry Overlay District can facilitate the preparation of the Meer Tract for construction of affordable housing.  The Quarry Overlay District addresses the need to protect the general welfare through regulation of the quarry operation and the associated excavation of natural resources.”

 

Natural resources to use to the construction of the affordable housing that will “transform” the town into a city.

 

HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation is some 377 pages long, full of the sort of legalese that confuses the average intellect and bores the uninitiated. One of its more obscure regulations states that not only may the local community organizing groups who “assist” a town’s planning board advocate for AFFH, citizens opposed to the ruling may not object, and can be fined or even jailed for expressing a negative opinion on the subject, citing that such opinions are racist and/or bigoted.

 

Some Bloomingdale residents came to the public meeting on Aug. 9. Mostly, they were conservationists and environmentalists, surprised to find that they were on the other side of Progressive fence.

 

Speaking of fences, residents complained that Tilcon had placed a fence around the quarry perimeter, warning off trespassers with threats of fines or jail. Or hospitalization.  What residents don’t realize is that the quarry has already chewed the entire hill out to the last tree line.  In other words, if you hike up Federal Hill from Union Avenue to the tree line, you’ll find there’s nothing but air on the other side.  Someone not realizing the true extent of the quarrying could well fall off a cliff, for the hill is sheared off on the other side.

 

The quarry is very close to being mined out already. As I pointed out to the town council at the meeting, at the rate Tilcon has been going since 2013, judging by the number of bomb blasts and the sound of rock slides, it won’t take them until 2050 to finish the job.  The mayor gave me a dirty look for that comment, for he denied ever saying that Avalon Bay would be the end of developing Affordable Housing and that it would take until 2050 before the building was complete.

 

A New Jersey Conservation policy wonk suggested a land swap for 100 percent Affordable Housing. The town council voted 5 to 1 to adopt the zoning ordinance that facilitates the expansion of Tilcon Quarry and the construction of “court-ordered” affordable housing.  But they also said they would take into consideration the possibility of requesting a land swap from the state involving Tilcon Quarry and the Bicoastal Acquisition.

The townspeople requested that the council identify who the owners of Bicoastal Acquisition were. Evidently, the council eventually complied but it was not identified in the local newspaper.

 

The owner of Bicoastal Acquisition is U.S. Concrete. U.S. Concrete is an interesting choice.  Supposedly, the land swap would stop the quarrying on the Meer Tract (it’s already too late for that, actually, and probably by the time the issue is resolved, the job will be finished).  Quarrying would then devolve to the 70-acre Bicoastal Tract.  Essentially, it would finish off Federal Hill and company.  By 2050.

 

Or quite probably sooner. There’s a little, itty bitty problem with U.S. Concrete.  According to financial trading website, “The Street Sweeper”, as of March of this year, U.S. Concrete’s stock was considered to be in trouble.  Highly overvalued, its own president and CEO sold off 6,500 shares of his own company’s stock.  To those in Bloomingdale (especially in The Flats), that’s not a good sign.

 

“U.S. Concrete’s trailing Price-to-Earnings ratio hit an incredible 544!” StreetSweeper wrote. “That means people are paying 22 times more for U.S. Concrete than the average 24 P/E seen within the industry overall.

 

“Why? A P/E of 544 is just as outlandish as the nearly $1 billion market valuation placed on a company that is not curing cancer or selling the fountain of youth.  Rather, a company that sells cement.  And it sells cement primarily in just three regions of the country.

 

“U.S. Concrete insiders have taken shares on a brisk walk to the auction block time and again over the last three months. In fact, insiders apparently had enough questions about the future of the stock that they didn’t bother making even one open-market purchase from December through March 2016.

 

“It’s always disheartening when executives sell the company stock. But CEO Sandbrook isn’t alone.  In the last couple of weeks, other executives and directors [five, in all, in 14 transactions] have jumped in to sell of chunks of the company’s [overvalued, by $55] stock.”

 

StreetSweeper attributes the company’s financial straits to overleveraging in order to make acquisitions. Why would a company that’s sitting on land slated for high-rise development bail out this way?   The website predicts that in time, and with the worst of circumstances, the company’s share price will fall to about $31 per share.

 

Tilcon, by the way has a parent company (Oldcastle) and a grandparent company, CRH plc, a global materials company which specializes in sustainable development.

 

Here’s what may possibly happen. U.S. Concrete’s executives are bailing out on their over-priced stock. CRH’s stock on the NYSE is at $33.46.  The Bloomingdale town council seems very eager for this land swap over to Bicoastal Acquisitions (U.S. Concrete), seemingly abandoning Tilcon’s present quarry.  But before you get too excited, you should know that Tilcon’s quarry is just about all quarried out.

Nothing is left but a tree line façade, as I’ve already noted. Bloomingdale gets the state to agree to the swap.  U.S. Concrete buys into the deal, but maxes out its credit and sells out to Tilcon, which winds up with license to basically flatten Federal Hill (I can still remember when I first moved to Pompton Lakes seeing Federal Hill.  I watched the planes flying over Federal Hill.  I remember the hill was only slightly lower than the airline beacon tower.  Now there’s nothing but space where the hill once stood.).

 

The mayor and town council point out how small an acreage they’re talking about Tilcon quarrying. What they don’t mention is how much of the hill has already been destroyed.  In its place high-rise apartments will arise, filled with the minorities Obama wants to send to destroy the suburbs altogether.

 

AFFH goes beyond the mandate to build affordable housing. The plan is for social justice.  Already other towns in the United States have been sued because a poor family wanted to live in the best neighborhood in town.  The town ordinances were declared invalid and high-density housing went up in a suburban neighborhood with at least a quarter of an acre of land.  HUD determined it was ‘unfair’ that some people could afford to live on such a large tract of land while poorer families could not.

 

According to an article in National Review magazine on July 20, 2015, “Affirmatively Furthering Housing: Obama’s Latest Disaster”:

 

“The plan has three elements:

 

  1. Inhibit suburban growth and, when possible, encourage suburban re-migration to cities. This can be achieved, for example, through regional growth boundaries (as in Portland), or be relative neglect of highway-building and repair in favor of public transportation.
  2. Force the urban poor into the suburbs through imposition of low-income housing quotas.
  3. Institute “regional tax-base sharing,” where a state forces upper-middle-class suburbs to transfer tax revenue to nearby cities and less-well-off inner-ring suburbs (as in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.).

 

My parents bought our house in 1961. I believe the house is on 1/8th of an acre of land.  We were poor.  But, as Al Frech of the North Jersey Regional Party says, “HUD doesn’t care.”

 

I spoke at the Bloomingdale public meeting as my mother’s representative (she still lives in the same house), but also on behalf of myself and my two brothers. The house is my mother’s largest financial asset.  Property values will go down when potential buyers realize that a city is going to be built right in the middle of the suburb and also, that HUD can build any size housing they want to right next door.  Or right on her property, for that matter.

 

With property values diminished, the houses on Jeffrey Drive and Knolls Road and vicinity will be ripe for the picking by wealthy developers like CRH. Given the choice of a much lower price by a potential homeowner or a higher price by a developer, my older brother (as executor of my mother’s will) will almost certainly choose the development price (he doesn’t care any more than HUD does) over a devalued homeowner offer.

That’s how the Progressives win: by blowing up hillsides, redistributing wealth, jobs, and populations through bureaucracy, and destroying the democratic process on the local and state level.

 

My mother predicted all this years ago. I’m just sorry that Mom was right.  Overpopulation, crime, drugs, traffic congestion, corruption, high taxes, and poor schools were why my parents fled Westchester County back in 1959.  We couldn’t afford to live in Westchester County and the city of Yonkers was overrun with people it’s now criminal to mention, no matter how dangerous of a place they made Yonkers for good people to live in.

 

Almost sixty years later, those same problems have followed us here, right to Mom’s doorstep practically. How ironic that the HUD activists chose Westchester County, and Yonkers of all places (it was used as the example by which to compare the rest of the county), as their example of a racist, non-inclusive suburb, and then chose Bloomingdale as the ideal suburban town to blow up in order to reorder society into their dystopian view.

 

When they’ve built their Social Justice City, HUD should give the place the name of the hill which they destroyed in the name of social engineering:  Federal Hill City.  It’s appropriate since it’s the federal and state government, not the residents, who created this monster.

 

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on August 17, 2016 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

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