When the Macy’s chain of bedding stores, appropriately called Macybed, explored the possibility of opening a store in North Bergen’s newly refurbished Columbia Park Shopping Center and wanted to reap the benefits of the 3 percent sales tax afforded to stores in the township’s Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ), Macy’s knew that there was certain criteria involved.
In order to be able to be a part of the UEZ, a business must guarantee a certain amount of jobs be set aside exclusively for local township residents. However, Macybed wanted to open the store with experienced employees. That circumstance, combined with the depressed economy, led Macybed to inform state officials that they could not afford to hire any new employees.
Macybed’s inclusion in the UEZ was in severe jeopardy.
“Without the UEZ classification, the only alternative would have been to close the store,” said State Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto. “No one wanted that to happen.”
Having had a long-standing relationship with the town prior to this dilemma, Macy’s called Impreveduto to see if there was anything that the Secaucus-based assemblyman could do to solve the problem.
Impreveduto informed Macy’s officials that they could receive inclusion into the UEZ, provided they would pay an annual penalty of $5,000 that would be donated to a non-profit organization. That stipulation was put into place by the state directors when the UEZ idea came to fruition seven years ago.
Macybed agreed to pay the fine. Now, it was up to the legislators to find a suitable way to spend the money.
Enter the art department at North Bergen High School. For years, the art department has been trying to purchase state-of-the-art computers that would aid students in learning about the advancements in computer graphics.
“Everything is computer graphics in the art world,” said North Bergen High School art teacher Nick LeRose last week. “It’s a necessity for our students to get into a part of that progress.”
Impreveduto informed North Bergen Mayor and State Senator Nicholas Sacco about the $5,000 that Macybed had to donate to the community. Sacco then told Impreveduto about the art department’s lack of computers. A marriage was made, with Impreveduto agreeing that the money should go to the purchase of the computers for the art department.
Monday afternoon, Impreveduto and Sacco presented Superintendent of Schools Peter Fischbach with the $5,000 check that will go to purchase two new Dell computers exclusively for the art students.
According to LeRose, the computers will feature large format programs designed exclusively for art, as well as a printer, scanner and assorted art-related programs.
“The computers are built exclusively for computer graphics,” LeRose said. “Other computers don’t have the capability to handle what we need for computer graphics. It’s going to be a huge help for our students. We’re very happy. We’ve been ready to order these computers for a long time. It’s a super benefit to our students.”
Impreveduto said that the $5,000 total represents what it would have cost Macybed to hire a part-time employee at the store.
“The good part of this is instead of just one person from the town being hired, now 30, 40, maybe 50 kids will get the advantage of using the computers,” Impreveduto said. “It really makes a lot of sense. Macybed wanted to open in North Bergen because of the UEZ and the 3 percent sales tax. It’s also ideal for North Bergen to want to bring businesses in. I’m glad that through our legislative offices, Nick Sacco and we were able to get it done.”
Sacco, who was one of the first proponents of the UEZ and wrote the legislation that brought it into law eight years ago, was happy that Macybed will be able to remain open in the township and the art students benefit from it.
“It took a lot of negotiation, but we’re really glad that we’re able to do it,” Sacco said. “It’s a nice thing that we’re able to do for the students.”