Prominent real estate developer Charles Florio is donating $50,000 to both the Peruvian and the Dominican parades. Each group will get $25,000, said the developer on Monday afternoon. Both groups have been groaning about the ever-increasing public safety and clean-up costs the city has been charging them.
Mario Lopez, president of the Peruvian parade, seriously considered ending his parade in Clifton due to the thousands of dollars his group has to pay for police and clean-up expenses to the municipal government.
The Peruvian parade runs through Passaic, Clifton, and Paterson. The generous contribution from Florio, who owns hundreds of rental properties in the rough 1st and 4th Wards, will allow the procession to pass through Paterson, said Lopez.
“Since Mr. Florio’s donation, we will finish in Paterson,” said Lopez.
Lopez’s group has been complaining about the fees the city has been charging. Paterson, at the behest of the state government, passed an ordinance in 2015 to shift parade public safety and clean-up costs onto organizers. Under the phase-in ordinance, the organizers are required to pay 40-percent of the cost for this year and in future years. This amounts to large sums of money.
For example, the Dominican parade cost an estimated $105,000 last year. The organizers had to pay $31,500 to the city for its parade and festival. Elsa Mantilla, president of Desfile Dominicano de New Jersey which puts on the Dominican parade, wasn’t sure how her group was going to pay this year’s fees.
“We’re raising little by little to give money to the city. It’s getting hard every year because we don’t have a lot of sponsors,” said Mantilla. “I’m so happy he’s going to help us.”
The Dominican parade had a revenue of $161,382 while the Peruvian brought in $11,658 in the 2015 tax year, according to federal tax records.
Both groups will receive the contributions later this week, said Florio. He had meetings with organizers of both groups. When he met with Mantilla she showed him the amount of money her parade has to pay to the city for public works and police expenses.
Upon seeing the large amount of money the city is charging the Dominican parade for Department of Public Work (DPW) services, a curious thought bubbled up in Florio’s mind, he said. “The parade has to pay thousands to DPW while the CEO of the city is using them for free,” said Florio.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres has been indicted for allegedly using public works employees to renovate a warehouse leased by his daughter and nephew. Torres has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Torres was followed by a private investigator hired by Florio. The developer, who hails from Hudson County, hired the private eye suspecting corruption within city government following a dispute with the building department. The video footages captured by the private investigator showed public works employees working at the mayor’s home and the leased warehouse. The workers collected overtime for private work done for the mayor, according to indictment unsealed by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
Florio wondered who paid for police and public works expenses the city incurred when Torres put on a Fetty Wap concert at Bauerle Field in the summer of 2015. He is contributing the funds to the parade groups for the positive publicity their processions bring to the city and for the other work both organizations do throughout the year.
“These are organizations that are doing positive things for the community all year long,” said Florio.
For example, the Dominican parade group provide citizenship classes, English language learning opportunities, and even helps poor families with funeral costs.
“This is something we’ve been doing for years,” said Mantilla. In a way, the Dominican parade, which represents the spirit of the old country, is helping its expatriate community better assimilate into American society.
Both parades have been around for decades.
Both expressed their appreciation for Florio’s contributions to their respective parades. He previously contributed $31,000 to both parades in 2015, he said.
“This is an example of a business man looking to improve the city,” said Lopez.