Leader Dye factory site in Paterson NJ faces $750K cleanup costOctober 12, 2020
Demolition of the Leader Dye factory offices on 3rd Ave. and Madison Ave. in Paterson began on Wednesday, February 21, 2018.
PATERSON – Mayor Andre Sayegh was standing next to the vast vacant lot at the former Leader Dye factory site on Friday morning when a local businessman pulled up to the curb and lowered his window.
“Mayor, what are you going to do here?” asked the motorist.
Sayegh says he expects to answer that question in the coming year, predicting that construction would begin at the site at the corner of Madison and 3rd avenues before the end of 2021. “There’s no shortage of interested investors,” he proclaimed in an interview.
But exactly what would be built and who would build it remains uncertain, officials acknowledged. Before any construction can start, the city first must address the pollution on the property, which environmental studies say includes 2,800 tons of oil-impacted soil and 4,000 gallons of oil-impacted groundwater.
Moreover, the city still has to assess whether there’s any contamination in the 2,500 cubic yards of concrete foundation that remains in the ground. An environmental analysis of the concrete — enough to fill about 250 large dump trucks — would determine where the debris can be hauled and what the disposal costs would be, officials said.
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A preliminary report issued earlier this year estimated that it would cost about $750,000 to clean up the property. Sayegh and his economic development director, Michael Powell, said Paterson may try to sell the property as it is and allow the would-be developer handle the cleanup.
The Leader Dye property has loomed as a symbol of Paterson’s economic struggles for more than a decade, a place where factory ruins inhabited by rodents lingered a block away from an elementary school.
The city government eventually took control of the site in 2017 because the New York-based real estate company that owned the land stopped paying taxes. The city then used $1.1 million in state grant money to demolish the remains of the industrial buildings. Officials have talked about getting state funding to remove the contamination, but the city has not secured funds for that work, Powell said.
“The property isn’t generating anything for the city right now,” said City Council President Flavio Rivera. “We need to find a way to do something with it. We can’t have properties sitting around like that.”
The Leader Dye site covers most of a city block and sits in a low-crime neighborhood in Paterson’s northeast corner, near Route 20. Officials said the easy access to the highway makes it an attractive location for would-be developers.
More than two years ago, Paterson’s most prominent developer, Charles Florio, offered the city $5 million for the site, but the Sayegh administration declined. Sayegh said his lawyers told him he couldn’t legally sell the land to Florio without first holding an open competitive process for other prospective buyers.
Florio said he now has less interest in the Leader Dye property because of his investments elsewhere in the city. He also said that the economic uncertainty created by the COVID-19 crisis has rendered the location less valuable.
“They’d be lucky to get $2 million for that site right now,” Florio said.
The developer said Paterson would be better off waiting for better economic times before it puts the Leader Dye land up for auction. “You don’t sell low,” he said. “It makes no sense.”
The mayor’s top economic development advisor concurred with that assessment.
“There’s no need to rush because of the economic times,” Powell said. “We need to make sure we leverage our assets the right way.”
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