Paterson scraps plans to create shared kitchen space; seeks to recoup $7M in public funds

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The city of Paterson has scrapped plans to create a shared kitchen space for over a dozen businesses and is now looking for ways to recoup millions in public funds the city spent on the project so far.

Mayor Andre Sayegh says that the building located at 163 Pennsylvania Ave. was supposed to be a shared kitchen space for 30 small food-related companies. The plan had cost $7 million.

“It was an ambitious project to begin with. Unfortunately, the stars did not align,” he says.

Businesses that would have used the building include Dingman's Dairy and El Abuelito Inc., a cheese manufacturer.

“We are determined to make sure the money is not squandered, and that a very viable option happens there at the site,” Sayegh says.

Some $700,000 worth of unused kitchen equipment is inside the building now. Sayegh says that he is looking to sell that equipment to make back some of the federal Housing and Urban Development funds.

“If Jon Bon Jovi is watching, I know it’s your birthday. Happy birthday. And if you want the equipment for one of your restaurants…it is for sale,” the mayor says.

So, what went wrong? The mayor says that federal funding dried up, for one. The plan was the idea of former Paterson Mayor Jeffrey Jones. When Jones left office, then-Mayor Joey Torres took over and put his own imprint on the project. The new plans caused cost overruns, according to Sayegh.

“From my estimation, the cost overturns could be over $10 million to 12 million,” says Paterson Councilman Michael Jackson.

Jackson says that he is concerned that the city mishandled the project.

“They could have extracted the money for other projects,” he says.

Jackson says that he is now waiting on documents from the Paterson Restoration Corporation for a potential audit.

“There were some large amounts of money being spent without projects of substantial returns,” he says.

Jackson says that this needs to be done so that the city doesn’t make mistakes like this in the future.

One of the potential options the city is looking at for the Pennsylvania Avenue building is a new dispatch center for emergency services. However, any proposal must be approved by HUD.

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