New York-based architectural and engineering firm WASA Studio, which was awarded a $1 million contract for the first phase of rehabilitation work at the Hinchliffe Stadium, has filed for bankruptcy delaying work on the historic site in the corner of Maple and Liberty Streets, according to officials.
City historic preservation director Gianfranco Archimede said the city’s contracts will be assigned to other firms through a bankruptcy court on Wednesday night. He said city attorneys are working with the company’s lawyers to assign the contracts to a Trenton-based firm and another founded by a group that left WASA Studio prior to the bankruptcy filing.
Law director Domenick Stampone did not respond to calls for comment on Friday afternoon.
“Now we’re in a waiting period for the bankruptcy court,” said Archimede speaking in past tense about last year’s bankruptcy filing by the firm. The city has two contracts with WASA Studio also known as Wank Adams Slavin Associates. One for $338,000 to conduct an architectural and engineering study and the second for $1 million to handle bidding administration, construction administration, phase-two schematic design, and preparation of construction documents.
Both contracts were assigned to new firms in January 2016, he said.
Archimede mentioned the company’s bankruptcy filing which occurred in July 2015 at Wednesday’s school board meeting. The company’s bankruptcy could further delay the rehabilitation the stadium which has been closed and crumbling since 1996.
Hinchliffe Stadium is one of the few remaining stadium in the United States where the Negro League was allowed to hold baseball games in a segregated America. The stadium was made part of the Great Falls Historical National Park in 2014 by an act of Congress.
School board members worried the city does not have the financial wherewithal to restore the fabled stadium. The barebones restoration of the stadium is estimated at $24 million and a modernized stadium with an added visitor center and amenities will cost $44 million.
“There is nothing in Paterson. That money isn’t here with the present economic condition of the city,” said board member Errol Kerr. The stadium, constructed in circa 1933, is in the top ten most endangered historic places in New Jersey.
“We don’t want a historic stadium to languish,” said board member Jonathan Hodges. The Paterson Public Schools owns the stadium and has a shared services agreement with the city.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres vowed to get the stadium renovated before his term ends in 2018. It’s not clear whether the delays will push the restoration work beyond 2018.
There’s also the issue of funding. City residents approved a non-binding plebiscite to borrow $15 million to renovate the stadium in 2009; however, in the city’s present fiscal state, the city council may not approve a bonding to restore the stadium.
Torres has been criticized for heavy borrowing — he borrowed $35 million to repair roads. His administration has been attempting to raise private funds. Late last year, the American Express Foundation issued a $300,000 grant to preserve two original ticket booths at the Art Deco style stadium’s entrance, giving some hope for a fully restored stadium.
Correction (8/15/2016): A previous version of this report erroneously stated the city was currently in a waiting period for its contracts to be assigned to new firms when in fact those contracts were assigned in January of this year.