The city council voted to borrow $1 million to pay for the demolition and stabilization of the Paterson Armory which caught on fire and burned down in early November.
The city has appropriated a total of $1.1 million in late November to demolish, secure the structure, undertake environmental remediation of the building, and conduct preliminary costs analysis to reconstruct the front administration portion of the historic building for housing or office space.
The borrowing measure though did not sit well with some city residents. Tom Fuscaldo, a lifelong city resident who opposes big government spending, railed against the borrowing measure during the public hearing prior to the final approval of the bond ordinance on Tuesday evening.
“The armory burned down — that’s beneficial like after an air raid or after a war. You have an empty clean property to do something with,” said Fuscaldo. He said it did not make sense the city would spend more than a million to demolition and secure a burned building.
The council approved a plan to preserve the front portion of the building on Market Street to potentially hand it over to a developer or to convert it into space for city offices. “The plan is to retain that section and the rest of it will be demolition,” said council president William McKoy.
Three speakers raised concerns about the city’s increasing appetite to borrow money. “We’re bonding a lot of money. We’re on state welfare. It’s getting ridiculous,” said Ernest Rucker, a community activist.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, said he wants to know when the streets will be re-opened near the armory that have been closed for more than two months. A fire began in the basement of the abandoned 120-year-old Paterson Armory at about 11 p.m. on November 9th, 2015 and burned for more than 20 hours before it was brought under control by firefighters.
Council members approved the bond ordinance in a 7-0 vote on Tuesday evening. $780,000 is being used for partial demolition and the rest for stabilization and an architectural study.
Council members have previously said by preserving a part of the building the city will save and bequeath some of the glorious history of Paterson to posterity.