The developer of a series of mill buildings seeking a 30-year tax abatement from the city offered to replace the doors of the Paterson Museum and convert a two-bedroom apartment in one building into a community meeting space failed to sway the city council and residents to support his tax abatement proposal on Tuesday night.
Councilman Michael Jackson led the opposition against the tax abatement agreement which is needed by the developer to secure financing for a $30 million renovation and expansion at the mills on both Market and Mill Streets. He said replacing doors at the museum will do little to tackle the pressing issues of the day like crime and lack of recreation for young people.
“I’m truly, truly disappointed,” said Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. “To imply the children of the community, my children are going to get a benefit from replacing some doors on a museum is disrespectful.”
Jackson, who wanted the developer to invest in a city park, was the sole opponent of the tax deal two weeks ago, but on Tuesday night he was joined by a chorus of residents opposed to the tax abatement sought by George McLoof, president of Longstreet Development.
“We have to make sure developers are developing something that is community minded,” said activist Waheedah Muhammad who lives in one of the buildings owned by the developer.
“This is nauseating. People don’t deserve this punishment. I request everybody kill this tax abatement otherwise you are making the people of Paterson pay 30 years for a gift to somebody that comes from out of town,” said longtime city resident Tom Fuscaldo.
McLoof took offense at Jackson describing him as an outsider. He said he has been doing business in Paterson for over three decades. His grandfather worked at one of the city’s mills. His father had his prom at the Alexander Hamilton Hotel, said McLoof.
“I have been paying taxes since you’ve been in grade school,” McLoof told Jackson. Under the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement the developer will pay the city $9.53 million in taxes over a 30-year period while without the agreement the developer pays $8.26 million, according to city records.
The developer will not be paying school or county taxes for the Cooke Mill, Hamilton Square, and the Argus Mill located at 21 Market Street, 5-7 Mill Street, 20 Mill Street, and 21 Mill Street as part of the agreement. 100 new construction and 7 permanent jobs will be created through the project, according to city records.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres dismissed Jackson’s claim the new museum doors will not benefit the community.
“There’s no study that says recreation has a direct impact on lowering crime,” said Torres. He said music, arts, and museum have a direct correlation with positive academic outcome for local children.
Torres cited the 60-percent affordable housing units as the ultimate benefit from the project to residents.
“Affordable housing has been a problem,” added Alex Mendez, councilman at-large. He said surrounding communities are sending all their affordable housing obligations to the city. By building more and more affordable housing units the city is further concentrating poverty in an already impoverished city, according to experts.
Torres, who has been mayor for more than 10 years, has prided himself on expanding affordable housing in the city.
There are very few developers willing to make an investment in a distressed like Paterson, said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. “Absent the use of PILOTs you will see very little or no development going on within the city of Paterson,” he said.
The council postponed a vote on the agreement to a later date. Meanwhile, the administration and the developer will return to the negotiating table to make the agreement more “palatable.”