The Unit: The Mayor's Answer to Paterson's Code Enforcement Woes
Thursday, August 30, 2012 • 8:30pm
PATERSON, NJ – In just a few moments, the routine of a summer’s day in the 4th Ward changed on Wednesday. Without warning, people wearing city badges descended on a stretch of 10th Avenue near E. 26th Street. They shut down the street and began checking inside various businesses.
Residents wondered what was going on. Some thought it might be a drug bust. Others speculated there had been a shooting.
In truth, it was none of the above. This was Mayor Jeffrey Jones’ quality of life initiative known as “The Unit” at work. A diverse team of inspectors from at least eight different city offices, The Unit operates by sweeping into a Paterson neighborhood to enforce various city code regulations. The group includes inspectors from various city departments and divisions, including heath, community improvement, fire, police, alcohol beverage control, licensing, public works and animal control.
“If we see something wrong, you’re hit,’’ said Jones.
On Wednesday, The Unit focused on some vacant buildings on Clinton Street and businesses on N. Main Street in the 1st Ward and 10th Avenue in the 4th Ward. The group checked about 18 locations, issued more than a dozen summonses and shut down two bodegas that had electrical problems, according to public safety director Glenn Brown.
Violations include unsecured stairways, illegal rooms, and food being stored at improper temperatures.
“This puts the rest of the city on notice,’’ said Brown. “These activities will continue.’’
In coming weeks, Brown said, The Unit will focus on businesses in “school corridors” in conjunction with the restart of classes.
The Unit has been operating on and off for almost two years. Jones emphasized that he is not using the quality of life initiative to gain positive publicity. The mayor said he wanted results, not headlines. In fact, neither the mayor nor anyone in his administration notified PatersonPress.com about Wednesday’s activity. Instead, it was residents who contacted this reporter about what was going on in the 4th Ward.
The crackdown caught 4th Ward Councilman Ruby Cotton by surprise. She lives about a block from the 10th Avenue target area and learned of the sweep from neighbors.
“I wish they would have let me know, but it’s good that they’re doing this,’’ said Cotton. “The code enforcement is really lax in the city. If they can step it up a little, it could improve a lot of things.’’
Not everybody is a fan of The Unit initiative. “I think it’s a little heavy-handed,’’ said Councilman William McKoy, who represents the 3rd Ward. “I think we should find other ways to get people to comply. To go in and check off A to Z, I’m not sure how productive or fruitful that is.’’