The city spent $15,540 to renovate the former lab space inside the Paterson Health Department on Broadway that has been leased to a nonprofit organization for two years. This amounts to almost 65-percent of first year’s revenue spent on renovating the space.
Council members, who approved the lease agreement with the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey in March, were not told of the amount of money the city would spend on renovating the space.
“That’s surprising,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, chairman of the health committee, when told of the amount spent on renovating the space. “We got less than adequate information.”
Health and human services director Donna Nelson-Ivy promised revenue to convenience council members to support the below-market lease accord. The city rented the 3,906 square feet of space at $6 per square foot on the second floor of the Anthony J. Grossi Health Building.
Nelson-Ivy also gave the impression the space would require minimal renovation. She stated at the time she had cleaned up the space and it was prepared for leasing. Public works employees handled general clean up, painting, and installation of floor and ceiling tiles.
Four biggest expenses were $4,744 for floor tiles, $3,087 for heating pipe covers, $2,696 on a locksmith, and $2,280 for labor (three public works employees). The city budgeted $13,550 for the project, according to municipal records. This number was not provided to council members at the time of the vote.
“I’m not happy with that at all,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. He said at a time when all departments are being asked to make cuts the city is spending funds on a lease agreement that will bring in very little revenue.
Some council members criticized the lease agreement by pointing to the below-market $6 per square foot rate. Jackson was among them. He placed the blame on Nelson-Ivy.
“Director Ivy is not being responsible. Why was this deal even made? How does this benefit the city?” remarked Jackson. “The council had an opportunity to act responsibly and deny it. I voted against it.”
Nelson-Ivy did not respond to a call and email for comment.
Council members Jackson, Andre Sayegh, and Luis Velez voted against the agreement while McKoy, Kenneth Morris, Shahin Khalique, Maritza Davila, Ruby Cotton, and Alex Mendez voted in favor.
“It was a bad deal,” said Velez, 5th Ward councilman. He said it was obvious from the start given the below market square foot rate. He suspects the city may have spent much more on the renovation project.
Velez, who is the chairman of the public works committee, plans to seek out information on the hours public works employees expended and cost of supplies purchased for the project.
“Donna Ivy wasn’t that clear with us. Her goal was to bring and rent that space no matter what,” said Velez.
Nelson-Ivy has been the center of a number of controversies this year. She was found exchanging text messages with the head of the controversial needle exchange operator Well of Hope when health inspectors visited the site. She tried to interfere with inspectors.
In April, Nelson-Ivy made public comments that were later proven false. Jackson asked her whether she was aware of concerns employees raised about having the city’s ID program at the vital statistics office.
“They have not shared it with me, sir,” Nelson-Ivy told Jackson in May. She had received an email on April 10th, 2017 from the woman in charge of vital statistics raising concerns about intermingling of the mayor’s identification program and vital statistics.
Nelson-Ivy was hired by former mayor Jeffery Jones. She was kept by disgraced mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. She tried running for mayor in 2014. She came in seventh place in a field of eight candidates.
“It wasn’t generating any revenue,” said Morris, councilman at-large, of the former lab space that was vacant for years. He said it’s not uncommon for landlords to fit-out space for tenants.