City, Habitat announce pact for four new houses

The two-story houses will be constructed on Connaught Hill.

By: Linda Seida
   LAMBERTVILLE — Officials on Monday announced an agreement between the city and the Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity that will lead to the construction of four new two-story houses on Connaught Hill for working low-income families.
   The construction on the hill comes almost 40 years after then-President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiative began on the site with a visit by his wife, Lady Bird Johnson; Sargent Shriver, who led the federal Office of Economic Opportunity during the Johnson Administration; former New Jersey Gov. Richard J. Hughes and Lambertville’s mayor at the time, Phil Pittore, according to Mayor David Del Vecchio.
   Habitat for Humanity has agreed to contribute $4,000 per unit toward ei- ther recreation or drainage on Connaught Hill.
   Representatives of the Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity, President Silvio Verdile and Executive Director Pam Ely, were present for the announcement during a meeting of City Council.
   It’s hard for officials to say when construction will begin. Many of the lots on Connaught Hill have title issues, such as clouded titles or unreachable owners, which the city, as redevelopment authority, must clear up or legally take over.
   Because of this, construction could be delayed by at least six months, according to Ms. Ely. If the way can be paved through the clouded titles, the goal is to begin construction on two of the new houses by summer or fall with the remaining two houses beginning construction in the spring of 2005.
   "We’re all very excited," Ms. Ely said.
   She conveyed Habitat for Humanity’s thanks to members of the council, the mayor, the city’s planner and everyone involved for "all their hard work."
   The announcement culminates eight months of work on the proposal, Mayor Del Vecchio said. Construction of the four houses will bring the total number of Habitat for Humanity houses in the Lambertville and West Amwell area to seven, according to Ms. Ely.
   "People who are working and doing their best to make it will have the opportunity to do one of the most important things in society, which is to own a home," Mayor Del Vecchio said.
   Councilwoman Cynthia Ege said, "This is not a handout to anyone."
   She noted the owner of a Habitat for Humanity house pays taxes, pays a mortgage and invests "sweat equity" by contributing labor.
   The mayor pointed out the new house construction is the latest in a series of improvements for the area. In the past, the city orchestrated a cleanup of scrap tires and another cleanup of abandoned cars. For the future, a $1 million drainage project is in the works, according to Mayor Del Vecchio.
   Also in the works is a plan to construct a city park.
   "We now have $53,000 from the open space tax for a park up there," Mayor Del Vecchio said.
   A park on the hill will make it easier for residents there to enjoy recreational activities. Now they must drive to be able to conveniently reach any of the city parks, according to the mayor.
   Persons interested in being notified when Habitat for Humanity is ready to select families for the new homes can contact the organization at (908) 704-0016 or write to Habitat at P.O. Box 6275, Bridgewater, N.J., 08807.
   Habitat also can be contacted via the organization’s Web site at or e-mail at [email protected].