Plans for the City of Bayonne to purchase Holy Family Academy on Avenue A to house the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation (BEOF) are underway. The City Council agreed on November 9 to enter into negotiations with Sisters of Saint Joseph Academy for the building’s purchase.
The city intends to issue a $4.5 million bond, using a $2.5 millionportion to purchase the building, while simultaneously selling five properties, three of which currently house the BEOF,to consolidate the organization into one building as well as pay off the bond. The rest of the bond is intended to pay for various telecommunications repairs throughout Bayonne. The city voted in favor of issuing the bond, which does not accrue interest unless the financing is formally accepted after plans to sell those properties and buy Holy Family move further along.
Rumors that the Police Athletic League (PAL) planned to move into the new building with the BEOF are unfounded. According to Council President Sharon Nadrowski, there have been discussions regarding a potential move for the PAL’s afterschool program, but nothing is set in stone.
Plans are to move the BEOF, and the 156 children in the Head Start Program, into the convent part of the Holy Family building while the rest of the building is rehabilitated. One of the objectives of the move would be to expand the Head Start program to accommodate children currently on a waiting list.
The city expects to sell the BEOF’s three buildings for $2 million, while an additional property on 8th Street would be sold for about $.5 million, resulting in an added $200,000 to the tax rolls.
Council hears concerns
Some residents voiced concern over the possibility of increased traffic in the area. Nadrowski responded by pointing out that fewer people would be coming in and out of the building. “I see it having considerably less traffic than when Holy Family was an active school,” she said.“The number of adults in the building who work there is going to be nowhere near what you had when Holy Family was a functioning school with 600 students, so we wouldn’t look to infringe upon [the traffic] you have currently.”
Samantha Howard, director of the BEOF, echoed Nadrowski’s response, saying that only about ten cars would be parked in the lot daily, and the nonprofit closes every day before rush hour. “Our clientele would be in and out on buses,” she said. “It’s a walkable neighborhood. A lot of our kids reside around there.” Howard welcomed any resident to come to her with issues. “We are not coming there to disturb the neighborhood,” she said.“We’re coming there to enhance the neighborhood.”
The council also dispelled a rumor that the building will be used for Hudson County social services. “It’s not Hudson County,” said Nadrowski. “It’s BEOF. I saw the flier too. It said there would be people sleeping there, but that it absolutely false.”
Former business administrator and local attorney Peter Cresci came before the council to warn against purchasing the building, estimating the cost of the rehabilitation to be too high due to asbestos and the lack of copper piping. “Don’t spend money on this building,” he said. “It’s a lot of money for an obligation that the taxpayers don’t need.” Cresci suggested the building may be better used for property redevelopment, adding more money to the city’s tax rolls.
Business Administrator Joe DeMarco said he personally walked through the building with members of the council, the BEOF, and the Sisters of Saint Joseph, and did not notice any visible signs of excessive deterioration, noting the council will do its due diligence in getting the property assessed. Nadrowski responded, “It will be officially checked out.”
Third Ward Councilman Gary La Pelusa praised the BEOF but cited concerns over financing. “My issue is the financial part of this whole thing and how the city has to take on the burden of selling all the properties,” he said. “Whatever debt that is incurred by the city, we’ll have to pay that.”
He suggested earmarking the money made from the property sales to pay off the bond, “so that when you get that money in it goes into the general coffers and doesn’t pay the bond.” The council, however, was not able to amend the bond issuance on short notice, resulting in a “no” vote from La Pelusa.
Rory Pasquariello may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.