Morristown, NJ

Crisis of Disrepair at Manahan Village Affordable Family Housing

Morristown Minute

Manahan Village, Morristown's only Affordable Housing Complex for families, is in a crisis of disrepair. The future of this community is at risk, here are the facts.

Affordable housing in Morristown has been a hot topic for Morristown Minute in the past few weeks. We’ve written a collection of articles since our launch in September of this year about the lack of affordable housing options and funds being routinely funneled away from minority and impoverished communities in our town.

Manahan Village is the only Affordable Family Housing offered by Morristown’s Housing Authority. The complex of buildings that comprises this living community is located just off Speedwell Avenue, less than a half-mile from Morristown green.

In August of this year, a man was shot and killed on Clyde Potts Road around the Cauldwell Playground, just across the street from Manahan Village. Reports from residents of Manahan Village cite an increasing worry about crowds gathering around the complex and the playground at night. These crowds are often loud and rowdy and have been growing in size.

A resident of Manahan Village since 2009, who preferred to be unnamed, said she keeps her kids at home after dark as the growing crowds at night are “getting scarier,” and she feels “stuck in the house.”

Another ten-year resident of Manahan, also preferring to remain unnamed, said the growing crowds around Manahan Village and the Cauldwell Playground at night are full of a “lot of drinking and smoking; and lots of cars.” Police are often present on the scene monitoring the crowds that are growing in size each night, but according to residents the police “don’t do anything” about the loitering.

Some, mostly older, residents call for a greater police presence around Manahan and the Cauldwell playground at night when the crowds begin to gather. However, others say an increase in police only makes the streets more dangerous for minority communities.

PBA 43, Morristown’s police officer’s union, fought back against late-night patrols, saying requests by the town for late-night patrols are just punishment for the lack of tickets written during the pandemic.

Morristown Police Chief responded to requests for more late-night patrols around the Manahan Village area in response to the growing late-night crowds saying, “where should I tell them to go?

The Manahan Village complex has seen an increase in social unrest and crime over the last 20 years, but arrests haven’t always been focused on cleaning up safety concerns that truly plague residents.

In 2001 a 3-month long investigation ended with a search warrant being acted on March 2 on a 20-year-old male’s apartment in Manahan Village. Police entered and found drug “paraphernalia and marijuana.”

The young man was arrested for “possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute within 500 feet of a public housing facility.

The 20-year-old Manahan Village resident was placed in the Morris County jail on $50,000 bail.

No other drugs were found in the young man’s apartment, nor were any weapons discovered. However, police have pointed to incidents like this one as “evidence” of their efforts to make Manahan Village a safer community for families.

Clearly, Morristown police seem to think the biggest problem Manahan Village residents face is 20-something’s selling pot. Meanwhile, people are being shot across the street at the playground.

Crime, crowds, guns, and 20-something’s selling pot aren’t the only problems Manahan Village residents have to deal with on a daily basis.

The housing complex is routinely inspected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD inspectors score public housing complexes on a scale of 100 – 100 being the best score – to represent the housing complex’s quality of living.

Inspectors can deduct points for mold, infestation, broken doors and windows, tripping hazards, graffiti, and more. A score above 60 is required to pass inspection.

Between 2013 and 2019 Manahan Village was inspected four times. In 2014 the complex received a score of 74 out of 100. In 2015 the housing complex received a 69 out of 100. Then in 2017, the complex received a 53 out of 100 – the decreasing trend in quality continues to this day.

The difference between the property’s scores over the years is more than 20 points which raises questions about the reliability of inspections and quality of Morristown’s only affordable family housing complex.

Congress mandates that federal subsidized housing conditions are “decent, safe, and sanitary” and in good repair. Conditions are determined by the numerical value out of 100 assigned by inspectors. Thus, Manahan Village is on a downward trend and not living up to HUD requirements.

The Morristown Affordable Housing Trust Fund was created by the Mayor Dougherty Administration in 2010 with the goal of rehabilitating “substandard housing units in Morristown.” Morristown has thus far donated $250,000 from the trust fund to the Morristown Housing Authority to upgrade and repair affordable housing units, including upgrades and repairs to areas of Manahan Village.

In May of 2019, the Marion Sally Residence Center within the Manahan Village complex closed due to mold, bursting pipes, and more disrepair. A portion of this $250k was set to be directed towards the repair and reopening of the Marion Sally Residence Center.

The residence center has since been reopened, but many residents of Manahan Village question the center’s usefulness. Many living in the community would have reasonably preferred the money be spent on updating the residential homes.

In 2019 a fire broke out in one of Manahan Village’s residential buildings when an electric stove caught fire in a second-floor apartment. The entire building was evacuated, luckily no one was injured. However, eight families living in the building, 26 people, were displaced by the fire. Perhaps if money were directed towards updating residential homes in the housing complex, incidents like this could be avoided.

Money may be coming into the Manahan Village complex, but it is not being directed towards the repairs that are needed to ensure the safety of this community.

Police seem to focus on the crimes (such as 20-something’s selling pot) that don’t necessarily translate to an increase in violence, and instead complain about late-night shifts and their inability to do anything about the growing late-night crowds.

With Morristown’s lack of affordable housing options and Manahan Village being the only option Morristown has for families seeking affordable housing, the safety of families is on the line for residents of Manahan Village.

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Sources:

Fatal shooting at Manahan, 2021:

https://morristowngreen.com/2021/08/18/like-firecrackers-morristown-residents-describe-fatal-shooting/comment-page-1/

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/man-charged-in-deadly-shooting-outside-nj-housing-complex-captured-in-oklahoma/ar-AAO54rK

https://www.nj.com/morris/2021/08/police-investigate-killing-at-nj-housing-complex-official-says.html

Morristown PD on “where should I tell them to go?”: https://morristowngreen.com/2016/08/10/morristown-police-chief-where-should-i-tell-them-to-go/

Morristown PBA, late-night beats punishment: https://morristowngreen.com/2020/10/12/morristown-pba-town-is-making-cops-walk-night-beats-as-punishment-for-lack-of-tickets-in-pandemic/

Cauldwell Playground: https://www.townofmorristown.org/index.asp?SEC=F0E380D1-320A-42C6-9682-F3CB5CEEA1D6&Type=GALLERY

Marijuana distribution arrests, Manahan: https://www.newjerseyhills.com/three-month-investigation-leads-to-drug-arrest/article_3babf1ab-81a9-5dcd-9df3-89aed21d5cba.html

Morristown Housing Authority requirements for applications: https://www.morristownha.org/how-apply/family-housing

$250k to renovate Manahan: https://morristowngreen.com/2019/05/31/morristown-gives-250k-to-renovate-affordable-housing-community-center-in-manahan-village/

Manahan HUD inspection: https://projects.propublica.org/hud/properties/NJ023000001

Fire at Manahan housing complex: https://www.newjerseyhills.com/morris_news_bee/news/update-fund-set-up-for-victims-of-thursday-fire-in-manahan-village-apartments-in-morristown/article_fd2ab468-c86b-5a20-a320-24cc26175dc9.html

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