The city council is opposed to a 15-year agreement to lease the Cablevision studio on Ellison Street for $5.25 million.
Under the gross lease agreement the city will pay $350,000 annually for 8,532 square feet of space at 78 Ellison Street.
“I didn’t like the agreement then, I don’t like the agreement now,” said council president William McKoy, who vehemently opposed the lease, on Tuesday night. The city has a 15-year lease agreement on the building from 2005, when it entered into a lease with developer Glen Fishman, which allowed Fishman to build the structure in downtown Paterson.
“We’re using the building now, but that doesn’t mean we always have to use it,” said the council president. City residents use the space to make broadcasts for Cablevision’s public access channel.
McKoy said it was a “sweetheart” deal back then to get the structure built. Now though, the lease agreement is not being sought by Fishman, but the Paterson Restoration Corporation (PRC), which plans to buy the property for $3.5 million. However, without a lease agreement from the city Fishman won’t be able to sell the structure to the PRC.
Economic development director Ruben Gomez, who also serves as the executive director of the PRC, described the space being leased as “specialty” space. He told council members $41 per square foot is a good deal.
Gomez said specialty space goes for $70 to $90 a square foot elsewhere.
There’s also the proposal that the PRC will provide $80,000 to upgrade antiquated broadcasting equipment in city hall.
“We’re giving this investor more money to bail him out,” Ernest Rucker, community activist, said of Fishman. “There’s something wrong with this picture.”
Rucker said the building isn’t worth $350,000 a year. He said it lacks parking and is in a bad location.
The city’s 2005 lease agreement was for $300,000 per year. That agreement still has 5 years left on it. So far, the city paid the developer $3 million. McKoy said had that deal been properly negotiated – as a lease-purchase accord — the city would have had possession of the building now.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, also appeared opposed to the agreement.
Fishman has a history with the city. Under the first mayor Jose “Joey” Torres administration, Fishman purchased a good amount of property liens from the city. A headline from 2005, dealing with the mayor’s lien sale to Fishman read, “Torres’ lien deals leave Paterson in dire straits.”
Torres sold the liens to improve the financial situation faced by his city.
At one point in 2005, Torres even pushed to designate Fishman as the primary redeveloper for the area around the Great Falls before it became a national park. However, that plan was blocked by the city council, according to news reports.
Torres did not respond to a call for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
“Somebody has to convince me this is a good deal for the city,” said McKoy.