Activists and community leaders rallied today in support of small businessman Russell Graddy, who says the New Jersey Transit owes him more than $1 million after the state agency reneged on a promise to let him run a restaurant in Atlantic City’s bus terminal.
At a press conference in front of New Jersey Transit’s headquarters in Newark, supporters of Graddy blamed the agency for mistreating the 85-year old businessman and called on the agency to make Mr. Graddy a just offer.
“The system requires that when we ride their buses, we pay the fare,” Canaan Baptist Pastor Barry Graham said. “When we make an agreement, all we ask is that [New Jersey Transit] do just and abide by their agreement.”
Graddy, who runs Mr. G’s diner in Paterson and who has long been a staple of his community, first ran into trouble with the agency in the late 1990s while running a souvenir and snack shop in the old, city-owned Atlantic City bus terminal. New Jersey Transit promised Mr. Graddy, he says, to relocate him in a new terminal it was building to be opened in 2003 and compensate him for the time his business would be closed.
Graddy agreed and handed over the keys to the agency. The store was stripped of its new stoves, refrigerators and grills — an investment of nearly $1 million — and moved it all to an undisclosed storage space. Meanwhile, Graddy continued paying rent on the property for 22 months.
The planned terminal was never built and eventually NJTransit opened a terminal at North Ohio and Atlantic avenues, where it is currently located Graddy was never given the opportunity to move to the new location. He has also been denied access to his equipment.
Activists on Monday showed resolve to continue supporting Mr. Graddy until New Jersey Transit lives up to its agreement.
“This man and his family have been humiliated,” said Jamie Bland of the National Action Network. “We will not stop until we receive justice for Mr. Russell Graddy.”
In 2007, Mr. Graddy won an arbitrator’s decision that he be paid $1.3 million. But he has yet to receive any compensation after a state Superior Court Judge ruled that New Jersey Transit was’t responsible for payment because Graddy’s agreement was with the Atlantic City Alliance and the Casino Redevelopment Authority, not New Jersey Transit directly.
But Stan Matthews, a consultant working on behalf of Mr. Graddy, called this a diversion.
Matthews asked: “How can New Jersey Transit ask him to move, receive the keys, send agents to take everything apart and then say we are not responsible for the whereabouts of your property?”
A New Jersey Transit spokesperson stated “On the advice of counsel, we cannot comment,” when reached by TAPInto Newark.