Mayor Andre Sayegh’s handpicked developer, New Brunswick Development Corporation (DevCo), for three Great Falls development projects paid $60,097 to his ally’s lobbying firm.
DevCo paid the funds to Bill Pascrell, III’s lobbying firm Princeton Public Affairs, according to state lobbying records.
Pascrell, who is the son of Rep. Bill Pascrell, is a close friend and ally of the mayor. He also heads the mayor’s nonprofit group, One Paterson.
“They are a client,” said Pascrell. When asked if he ever lobbied Sayegh on behalf of DevCo, he said, “You can talk to the mayor. I never spoke to the mayor about DevCo, ever.”
When asked if Pascrell ever lobbied for DevCo, Sayegh said, “No. As a rule, I don’t get involved in private business transactions. Obviously, Bill is successful in his own right and wouldn’t involve me in any such matter.”
Pascrell said another lobbyist, Kevin Hagen, in his firm handles DevCo’s account. Pascrell drew a $623,815 salary from Princeton Public Affairs in 2019, according to state records.
DevCo was selected by the mayor as the main developer to handle a $50 million project, mostly funded through a $37 million state tax credit, at the Great Falls. Sayegh administration officials never conducted a request for proposal (RFP) to select a developer for the project. The nonprofit development company will receive a 3 percent developer’s fee from the project, according to Christopher Paladino, head of DevCo.
It’s not clear how much the 3 percent is in dollar terms.
Economic development director Michael Powell did not provide the figure on Monday. He did not respond to a call on Tuesday.
Councilman Michael Jackson, who asked about the developer’s fee last week ago, said on Tuesday he has yet to receive a dollar figure.
Powell and Sayegh have been criticized for failing to provide sufficient information to the City Council about the Great Falls projects.
Council members are expected to vote on whether to guarantee $38 million in debt for the DevCo-led projects, a community center, a parking deck, and a visitor center at the Great Falls, on June 30.
Paladino served on the mayor’s transition team two years ago. “That’s when he developed his relationship with the mayor of Paterson,” said Pascrell.
DevCo has projects throughout New Jersey. It has been involved in various controversies over the years, according to reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Press of Atlantic City. Some critics of the company’s project in Paterson have lately circulated the stories on social media.
Sayegh pitched DevCo as a “very reputable developer” to the City Council on June 16.
This isn’t the first time Sayegh has pitched a client of Pascrell’s lobbying firm. In 2013, Sayegh, as councilman, pushed to get Paterson into an energy cooperative run by Concord Engineering, a Princeton Public Affairs client. His efforts were unsuccessful. In 2018, Sayegh successfully convinced the City Council to contract with Concord Engineering to save on municipal electricity bills.
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