Fort Lee took a step toward closing the gap between demand and availability for housing for adults with special needs last week, when the Borough Council unanimously approved a 15-story, 140-unit high-rise apartment building on lower Main Street at its regular meeting Thursday.
More than half of the units would be affordable housing, and 57 units would be dedicated to people with special needs if the Fort Lee Planning Board approves the plan.
“We need to satisfy our low and moderate income housing obligation,” said Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich of the development at 69 Main St. “And that’s all attributable to Redevelopment 5. I’m having it built off-site, as opposed to at Redevelopment 5.”
Sokolich added that the Mayor and Council are “hopeful” the move will “take off the affordable housing obligations of Redevelopment 5.”
“If it doesn’t satisfy the need attributable to Redevelopment 5, there are safeguards in these agreements with these redevelopers that they are ultimately responsible for whatever comes their way,” Sokolich said.
Speaking at the meeting Thursday, 65-year-old Ellen LaFurn of Ridgefield said she spent more than 20 hours the previous weekend in a folding chair with a small umbrella waiting out a severe thunderstorm because there was a chance she could get one of 10 apartments available in Ridgewood for her 28-year-old daughter, who used to work at Pathmark in Fort Lee—she’s now at the Pathmark in Edgewater—and has Asperger’s syndrome.
“This is what parents are willing to do for their children,” LaFurn said. “I’m a senior citizen, and I have many friends who have adult children; the parents have serious health conditions. And we are panic-stricken because there is just not enough housing.”
Fort Lee Councilman Joseph Cervieri said the Fort Lee governing body is “very supportive” of the effort to provide affordable housing to people with special needs and “all those who provide so many good services to the people of Fort Lee.”
The amended agreement with Assad Y. Daibes Memorial Foundation for Special Needs would provide for studio apartments up to three-bedroom units at the end of Main Street, where it becomes River Road leading to Edgewater, which is the current location of Prestige Auto Body.
Sokolich said of the longtime auto body shop, “Hopefully, in the very near future, there will be a relocation” to Route 4.
“This is a place where people can continue with what we believe to be a normal and productive life, and if Fort Lee can play a part or some role in that by facilitating the housing that they require, I am all for it,” Sokolich said.