October 10, 2012

Lobby For HUD Money

A variety of representatives from social advocacy agencies appeared before the East Hampton Town Board last Thursday night, petitioning for a piece of the annual Community Development Block Grant pie.

Each year since 1974 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has provided grants to municipalities for a range of community needs. Town housing director Tom Ruhle explained that, in order to qualify for the grant, agencies must demonstrate that a project benefits low income residents. Last year the town received about $110,000 through the CDBG program. This year, pending congressional approval, East Hampton's in line for $98,570.

Requests exceeded the figure, meaning the town board will have to decide how to portion out the pie.

Tim Bryden, executive director of Project MOST was first to the podium with a request. Project MOST is the only local after school program that services school aged children in East Hampton. Last year, he said, a $7000 grant helped offset the cost of providing scholarships for low-income families to the program. He didn't request a specific dollar amount.

Minerva Perez from The Retreat did. The representative from the East End's only domestic violence shelter sought $15,000 for the replacement of bedroom floors, the painting of the basement floor, and repairs to the roof at the shelter.

Perez reported that the last two years have seen a 96 percent increase in requests for service, and that the shelter has operated at maximum capacity 95 percent of the time, with 45 percent of the guests under the age of five.

Asked by Supervisor Bill Wilkinson whether The Retreat has had any success soliciting help from private donors, Perez informed, "Those things happen." Recently an electrical contractor completed work at the shelter for free, but in general, given the stigma attached to domestic violence, "This is not a topic people gravitate toward," said Perez.

Bruce Carabine spoke of Maureen's Haven Homeless Outreach and its work on the East End. Operating under the Peconic Community Council, Maureen's Haven provides temporary shelter in area houses of worship to homeless clients from November to March.

There are currently 15 houses of worship, 17 support agencies, and 1500 volunteers involved. Last year 267 individuals were sheltered over 122 nights on the East End. Overall that works out to between 50 and 60 guests per night; that's 12 to 15 per night in East Hampton. Last year 10 percent of the guests were newly homeless, with 79 percent of them male and 21 percent of them female.

Maureen's Haven is asking for $10,000 to help with transportation and screening.

Prudence Carabine was next up to the podium, making a pitch for money to help incorporate the Labrozzi/Lester Farm Board. The board's goal is the creation of a museum in the building located on the northwest corner of North Main and Cedar Streets in East Hampton.

Purchased by the town several years ago, the structure remains incomplete and isn't open to the public. Carabine requested $5000 to cover the cost of incorporation plus provide seed money for the museum's fundraising efforts.

Catholic Charities operates a satellite office in East Hampton to serve Spanish-speaking clients with chemical dependency issues. Melissa Micari asked for $5000 to be put toward the salaries of counselors.

Windmill Village and Whalebone Village have received funding from the CDBG program for 20 years, Jerry Mooney pointed out. Over the years, the affordable housing complex at Windmill Village has been almost completely rebuilt. Mooney asked for $40,000 to purchase step-in showers for mobility-impaired seniors.

A request for money to make repairs at the Springs Fireplace Apartments, prompted Councilwoman Theresa Quigley to wonder whether there was a different way to get the money – specifically through initiating legal action against the builder. She'd added up the requests and they were in excess of the anticipated federal allocation.

Housing Authority Executive Director Catherine Casey reported that walkways installed just four years ago need to be ripped out and replaced, as do shower stalls that have begun to leak, damaging the floor beneath them. Wilkinson observed that if any ordinary homeowner built a new house and there were problems after just four years, he'd be "going after" the contractor. Town Attorney John Jilnicki said he'd review contracts for the improvements to see if legal action could be fruitful.

Replacement of the floor and repairs to the shower stalls would cost $21,000, the new sidewalks are estimated at $10,000, and two additional projects – safety measures at the playground and repairs to the entrance of the county health clinic at the Accabonac Affordable Apartments will cost an additional $20,000-plus. Wilkinson asked Ruhle if the projects as described all qualify for the grants. The housing director said most seemed to, but he was in the process of researching whether the farm museum request would pass the test.


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