The organization that played a pivotal role in the designation of the Great Falls as a national park is entering into a lease agreement with the Silk City to move its office to the S.U.M. administration building at Overlook Park.
Hamilton Partnership for Paterson intends to pay $18 a square foot which amounts to $7,020 a year for the 390 square feet second floor of the Society for the Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M) administration building.
Some council members thought the price was too low for the space. Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, thought the space would demand a higher price while Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman, wanted a higher rental fee for the view of the Great Falls.
Mendez thought $585 per month was too little. Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, pointed out the square footage rate is based on market rate in the city. Indeed, the Hamilton Plaza office building in Paterson, charges $18 per square foot. Hamilton Plaza office building is considered as high end office space in the Silk City.
“$18 a square foot is market rate for that area,” said Morris. “You’re not going to get more than $18 a square foot for that building.” The rate was determined by the city’s economic development department through a series of comparison with downtown Paterson and South Paterson office spaces, said officials.
“This is a very outdated building in the sense that there’s no elevator, the fixtures are older,” said law director Domenick Stampone. He said the short-term lease agreement with the group is to generate revenue for the city while process is underway to transfer the land and the building to the federal government.
“They have parking too? They get a historic view and all that?” remarked Velez. There is no view of the water fall from the second floor. The view from the second floor is of the Welcome Center across the street and Burger King down the slope.
The first floor has a monopoly of the Great Falls view.
Some council members did not know the National Park Service has its operations on the first floor of the building located at 72 McBride Avenue.
“Is it used for anything right now?” asked Shahin Khalique, 2nd Ward councilman.
Council president William McKoy thought the utilities cost would be higher than the rent collected. He urged the city to find another tenant for the first floor.
“Even if the building is empty you have to run the utilities,” said Morris. He said otherwise the pipes would freeze and the building would suffer damage.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, pointed to the work the group has been doing. The Hamilton Partnership for Paterson has proposed a $19.7 million visitor center for the Great Falls. The group has been raising funds for the center.
Leonard Zax, president of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, said the organization has been operating out of the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) building at 32 Spruce Street.
Zax said the group has three full-time staff members who assist the National Park Service at the park.
“We work very closely with the National Park Service, and our staff helps their staff in many ways. That’s why it’s common for friends groups to be afforded administrative space in the national park system,” said Zax. “Until the transfer, the city would get our rent payments and we will be able to do an even better job enhancing the benefits of the national park for the city where I grew up.”
When the New Jersey legislative delegation faced intense opposition to designating the Great Falls as a national park in Congress on the ground that Paterson’s landmark is not significant enough for the status, the Hamilton Partnership found well-established and respected historians who testified to the significance of the Great Falls’ to America’s past.
“This is a nonprofit group with a mission to develop the falls and create it as a tourist destination,” said Morris. “If we’re going to move the city forward, we’re going to have to develop these collaborative partnerships.”
The council preliminarily approved the agreement on Tuesday night. A final vote is scheduled for December 20th, 2016. Zax has been invited to attend that meeting.
Corrections (Nov. 11, 2016): A previous version of this report erroneously stated Zax is the executive director of the Hamilton Partnership when in fact he is the president. The group has three full-time employees not two.