The school district has closed on its sale of the old School 5 on Totowa Avenue after receiving ownership clearance for $900,000, 10-percent less than the original $1 million price, according to school officials.
School board member had approved the sale of the old building for $1 million. But part of the deal required the district to clean out the building, according to school board members. School officials did not previously disclose this part of the deal.
“The building had been used for storage for years. The district agreed to pay for the cost of cleaning the building out. The cost of the clean out was deducted from the sale price,” said Paul Brubaker, spokesman for the Paterson Public Schools.
School board members were told the district had to clean out the building prior to conveying it to the buyers, Jennifer and Cesar Pina. Jennifer Pina is the owner of the limited liability company that bought the building, according to state government records.
“There were some things inside,” said school board president Oshin Castillo. She said some of the materials were hazardous. She noted the building has asbestos. “Once we got in there, we realized it wasn’t just chairs and tables.”
Castillo said the district would have had to clean out the building. She said she did not want district employees exposed to the hazards inside. Instead of the district cleaning out the building, school officials deducted $100,000 and left it to the developer to clean it out.
“At first I wasn’t happy with the idea at all,” said Castillo. She said qualified people would have had to be brought on to remove the debris from the building. “There wasn’t much of a choice.”
Prominent developer Charles Florio, who has criticized the sale of the building, situated walking distance from the Great Falls, slammed the school board for giving the developers a 10-percent discount.
“Such a joke. A 10 percent reduction in an already 50 percent discounted price,” said Florio, famous for exposing corruption that led to the fall of former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. He said cost to clean out the building would be far less than $100,000.
A 30-yard container costs $600. Two men would be able to fill the container in a single day. If paid $25 dollars per hour, three times the minimum wage, it would not amount to $100,000, he said.
“Is the district saying there were 100 containers of garbage?” remarked Florio. “This was just another insult to the children in Paterson. These school board members are one of two things. Either in on the hustle or too stupid to see the hustle, either way they need to go.”
Florio tried to purchase the building, but was rebuffed by the district, he said. He was willing to offer more than $1 million for the property.
School officials had said the building was appraised at $1.7 million.
Florio said the district spends millions to lease buildings and sells its assets at “massive discounts” to help donors of the Democratic Party.
During the summer the Pinas donated $30,000 to the controversial One Paterson foundation to renovate fields in municipal parks. Some on the City Council have recently claimed the entire $30,000 was not received.
But, mayor Andre Sayegh last week said the Pinas have donated $20,000. He said the couple is paying in installments.
Sayegh said the eight ballfields have received the promised improvements. He said One Paterson paid the contractor.
Florio has alleged there’s a connection between the deal with the school board and the donation to Sayegh’s foundation. He has also pointed out the real estate deal was brokered by school board member Vincent Arrington’s brother-in-law.
“I really hope the people of Paterson vote in this coming election for the kids, residents, and Paterson’s interest rather than treating the board of education as though it is American idol,” said Florio. “There are real candidates out there who want to do the job not get the position to make sure they are a rubber stamp for developers and contractors of the party.”
“It wasn’t a discount. We had to spend $100,000 to clear the building out,” said school board member Emanuel Capers, chairman of the operations committee. When asked if he thought the reduced price was acceptable, he replied, “Am I okay with it? I’m not the majority of the board.”
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Updated 7 p.m.