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The Gardens: A Model Housing Project Celebrating 81 Years Young

Jun 16, 2022
Harrison Gardens on Harrison Avenue Gazebo

In 1941, two Federal housing projects started to provide much-needed housing.  One of the projects was in the Town of Harrison and the other was in the neighboring City of Newark.  The Harrison housing project consisted of 214 apartments.  The Newark housing project was 530 apartments.  The Newark housing project, the Seth Boyden Terrace apartments, was recently torn down.  The Harrison Housing project known as The Gardens still stands providing much-needed affordable housing in Harrison.

Harrison Gardens Building

In 1938, the then Mayor Frederick J. Gasssert and the Town Council created the Housing Authority of Harrison.  The purpose of the Housing Authority was to obtain grants to build affordable housing.  Initially, Mayor Gassert had discussed the formation of a private company financed by a group of local industrial companies.  Harrison’s industry at the time attracted new residents who had difficulty finding housing.  Industrial employers were interested in local housing for its workers.

The privately funded housing fell through because of the Great Depression but the idea was carried forward by the foresight of Mayor Gassert to put in place the Housing Authority of Harrison to be ready when the Federal Government as part of the WPA projects was looking to stimulate the economy with public building projects.  The Gardens was one such project.

Harrison Gardens Gazebo on Harrison Avenue

The Gardens was completed in 1941 and as previously mentioned had 214 apartments consisting of units of three rooms to five and a half room units.  In 1941, the rents ranged from $21.50 to $26.50 per month.  Today, that would be the equivalent of $427.51 and $526.93 per month.  A really good rent in today’s apartment rental market.  The Gardens cost $1,060,000 to build which is the equivalent today of $5,169,861.

The Gardens takes up the area of a town block in the 700 block of Harrison Avenue.  The Gardens sit between Harrison Avenue and Hamilton Street along Schuyler Avenue in Harrison.  It sits across the street from what long-time residents of Harrison call the new Harrison High School on the Hamilton Street side of the housing development.

The Harrison Housing Authority's mission statement is as follows:

“Is to assist low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled with decent, safe, sanitary, and affordable housing opportunities as they strive to achieve self-sufficiency and improve the quality of their lives. The Housing Authority is committed to operating in an efficient, ethical, and professional manner. The Housing Authority will create and maintain partnerships with its clients and appropriate community agencies to accomplish this mission.”

The Harrison Housing Authority Board of Commissioners is composed of James P. Doran (Chairperson), Arthur Pettigrew (Vice-Chairperson), Brunilda Mustilli (Resident Commissioner) Daniel Choffo, Frederick Confessore, Dawn Kinsella, and Richard Miller.  The Executive Director is Raymond Lucas.

The Harrison Housing Authority does not participate in the Section 8 housing choice voucher program. According to the Harrison Gardens website states that the Harrison Housing Authority waiting list is closed and is no longer accepting applications. There is no indication on when the waiting list will open again.

What do you think about The Gardens?  If you are a former tenant, what are some of your stories about living at the Gardens?  Let us know on our Discussion Board.