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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—In response to concerns about his residency, Luis Gonzalez resigned from his volunteer position as the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners at the New Brunswick Housing Authority (NBHA) on August 5.
“He resigned this afternoon,” said City Council President Kevin Egan at the City Council meeting, just four days after this newspaper reported Gonzalez was living outside New Brunswick in violation of city law.
Gonzalez was first appointed to the NBHA board in 2011, but he only lasted two weeks after being named Chairman on July 22.
During an interview on July 31, Gonzalez admitted to New Brunswick Today that he lived in Princeton, some 17 miles south of New Brunswick.
While it’s unclear whether state law requires board members to reside in the town where they serve, a city ordinance required Gonzalez to either live in the city or work full-time for the city government.
“He felt that the discussions about his residency were taking away from the good work that the Housing Authority board does,” said Jennifer Bradshaw, a spokesperson for Mayor James Cahill.
The agency operates and manages a handful of public housing complexes in the city, and administers the Section 8 housing choice voucher program. It also also plays a key role in real estate and construction, doubling as the city’s “redevelopment agency.”
As we reported, the agency has also entered into agreements to provide services to other housing authorities in Franklin, Bayonne, and Wilmington, Delaware.
The City Council and not Mayor Cahill, will technically select Gonzalez’s replacement. His term on the board was set to expire in April 2017.
Officials maintained that Gonzalez’s primary residence is on Lawrence Street in New Brunswick, but according to Gonzalez his parents now live there and he has re-located to Princeton.
Bradshaw had defended Gonzalez’s New Brunswick credentials, saying he “has two residences and the primary one is in New Brunswick.”
His own financial disclosure forms list no real estate holdings, even though he told New Brunswick Today he owns property in New Brunswick and Princeton.
Neither property is mentioned on Gonzalez’s annual financial disclosure forms in 2014 and 2015, which both come up under a slightly different spelling of his name: Gonzales.
Gonzalez works as a financial aid officer at Rutgers University, and previously worked for the New Brunswick Board of Education.
The August 2 New Brunswick Today article about Gonzalez becoming NBHA Chairman generated significant controversy, including many opinions on both sides of the issue of residency requirements.
“My family and his family been neighbors on Lawrence Street for over 20 years. He is a New Brunswick man. Leave him alone!!” wrote one commenter on Facebook.
Still, others argued that Gonzalez’s out-of-town residence was part of a longstanding pattern of misconduct within the agency and a larger theme of wealthy out-of-towners exploiting some of the city’s poorest residents.
“NBHA back in the day of 176 Memorial Homes everyone worked there then were all crooks,” said one commenter.
“I moved back to New Brunswick after 22 years, I was born and raised here and I couldn’t believe what I saw,” said another. “How this town was taken over and the people that been here all there lives let it happen. PUBLIC HOUSING IN THIS TOWN IS A MESS.”
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.