Paterson union opposes leasing second floor of health department
By Jayed Rahman
Published: March 16, 2017
The union that represents employees of the Paterson Health Department has come out against a proposal to lease the second floor of the Paterson Health Building to a nonprofit organization.
Robert Sawh, president of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 430, cites lack of parking space at the location to argue against the proposal. In his letter to council members, Sawh wrote the second-floor could be a better location to house the Environmental Health Office which is presently scattered in the building.
Sawh could not be reached via phone for comments.
Sawh’s letter states the space being leased out is the only temperature controlled space in a building that suffers from heating and cooling problems that often results in employees leaving work.
“These are some legitimate concerns,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, chairman of the health committee.
Council members are expected to vote on the lease agreement tonight.
Donna Nelson-Ivy, health and human services director, is proposing to lease 3,906 square feet of former lab space on the second floor of the building at 176 Broadway for $24,000 per year to the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey. The nonprofit group will offer resources to mothers and children from the new space.
Nelson-Ivy told council members earlier in the month the agreement helps to fill a space that has been vacant for two years and generates revenue for the city. The space is being leased for $6 per square foot which is below market rate.
Council members have criticized the administration for leasing space for reduced rate in the past. For example, some council members thought $18 per square foot for the former Municipal Utilities Authority building’s second was too little even though $18 per square foot is the market rate for high end office space in Paterson.
Nelson-Ivy was not in office on Thursday. Reached at her home, she did not wish to comment.
Sawh’s letter also states the health officer who is in charge of the building was never made aware of the plans for the second floor. Health officer Paul Persaud said he learned about the proposal by reading it in the newspaper.
Persaud echoed the sentiments of the union’s letter. He said the parking lot has 55 spaces and there are 60 employees at the building. He said the former lab area is the only part of the building that is temperature controlled.
Sawh’s letter states employees have “repeatedly” asked to move into the space because of the sporadic nature of the building’s HVAC system. He said this results in the building reaching above 90 degrees some days and 50 other days.
“Too many times our members have to leave due to excessive heat or too cold or have to utilize space heaters that trip circuits,” read Sawh’s letter. “Naturally, staff expressed concern why an outside program is being given preference to prime space that could benefit the staff.”
The union suggests moving the Environmental Health Office which is tasked conducting retail, lead inspections, handling nuisance complaints, among other tasks to the former lab space rather than leasing it. This will open up space to relocate Vital Statistics and the municipal ID program to a more secure location, states the letter.
Staff at the building are “totally” against the plan to lease the location to an outside organization, reads the letter.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the staff,” said Persaud.
Nelson-Ivy attempted to locate a $3.74 million mental health clinic at the same space last year, but the plan failed to secure approval from council members.