A Cleaner Sweep in 6th Ward Commercial Districts
Monday, January 14, 2013 • 7:00pm
PATERSON, NJ – Merchants in South Paterson were feeling like second-class citizens. Litter on their streets seemed to be ignored, they said. Debris would spill from public garbage cans and onto their sidewalks. It wasn’t good for business.
So they complained to city officials and invited them to tour the neighborhood to see the problem first-hand.
What happened next caught the merchants by surprise. Using funds from Paterson’s Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ), the city council approved a one-year, $127,843 contract with a Rutherford company to provide daily street-cleaning services along Main Street in South Paterson as well as the 21st Avenue commercial district.
“We didn’t expect it to be that quick,’’ said Jim Nouri, owner of a property management company in South Paterson and one of the leaders of the merchant group.
“We did it together,’’ Nouri added. “That’s why we were nice and loud because we saw our businesses slipping away through our fingers we didn’t want to see that.’’
Nouri said Councilman Andre Sayegh, who represents the 6th Ward where the two business districts are located, was particularly instrumental in getting the funding for the cleaning program. “He spent a lot of time with us,’’ said Nouri.
Business leaders and officials hope the cleaner sidewalks will encourage more visitors and shoppers to the two business districts. “I appreciate my colleagues and their support of this initiative,” Sayegh said of other council members who voted in favor of the contract last year.
Sayegh hopes 21st Avenue and the South Paterson section of Main Street can become examples for other business districts in Paterson to follow, such as 10th Avenue or Union Avenue. “Hopefully we’ll have a model here, we bottle the model and then it spreads,” Sayegh said.
Improving the business climate is important to Paterson’s fiscal health, Sayegh said.
Nouri said shoppers have noticed the change since the sidewalk-cleaning contract took effect in November. “People come into our stores now and they say, ‘Wow, everything looks different. I t looks clean. We want to come around here now,’” said Nouri.
The contracts call for daily cleaning services in South Paterson, on Main Street from Crooks Avenue to Hemlock Street, and along 21st Avenue, from Straight Street to E. 27th Street.
Under the contract, the cleaning is supposed to take place seven days a week, eight hours a day.
Mario Tommolillo, the owner of Classic Auto body from the 21st Avenue business district, is pleased with the clean-up that’s taking place. “I think it’s a humongous plus for the merchants of 21st Avenue,’’ he said. “It could certainly have used a lot of help and it’s certainly getting it right now.”
The long-term prospects for the street-cleaning program are unclear. The state several years ago changed the UEZ program so that the revenues stopped flowing directly to the municipalities. Paterson’s UEZ program soon will run out of funds for such things as the street-cleaning contract.
Jamie Dykes, president of the Greater Paterson Chamber of Commerce, said one possibility would be the creation of Special Improvement Districts (SIDs) in those two business areas.
Under a SID, the businesses within the designated area pay an extra tax that goes towards beautification and other projects designed to enhance the businesses’ interests. Paterson already has two other SIDs – one that covers the Downtown area and another at the Bunker Hill industrial park.
Dykes said the SIDs – if created – could take over the sidewalk-cleaning contract next fiscal year when the UEZ funds are exhausted.