PATERSON, NJ – After several years of delays, demolition has begun on the homes that stand along 22nd Avenue where state education officials plan to build one of Paterson’s two new schools, a replacement for the old P.S. #16.
Meanwhile, the state also has completed removing contaminated soil from the long-dormant construction site for the other school project at Hazel and Marshall streets, officials said.
“I think it’s a miracle that they’re finally doing something,’’ said Peter Tirri, president of the Paterson Education Association, the union that represents teachers. “That’s encouraging. But the fact of the matter is that we’ve been waiting for this construction for seven years. “It’s disheartening that it took all of this time to get things started.’’
“When I see it, then I’ll believe it,’’ said Paterson school board member Jonathan Hodges referring to the construction of the two schools. “The Christie administration still hasn’t put up one brick in Paterson. Demotion is not putting up a brick.’’
The School 16 and Hazel/Marshall street projects, along with plans for two other Paterson schools, had been on the state’s list ofeducation construction projects that were ready to start back in 2009. But when Chris Christie became governor in 2010, he put a halt to all School Development Authority (SDA) projects statewide, saying the construction program was rife with waste and corruption.
In March 2011, the SDA issued a revised list of projects for the state that dropped two Paterson projects, the expansion of School 25 and a replacement for School 3. At that point, Christie said projects would proceed under new construction criteria designed to ensure the work was cost-effective and efficient. But critics say the state has been slow to proceed on work on those projects on the list, including School 16 and Hazel/Marshall.
When asked for comment on the situation, Paterson Public Schools spokeswoman Terry Corallo said, “We are looking forward to having these two new facilities available to help address the district's facility challenges.’’
Officials said the demolition of the School 16 site should be completed by the spring. Next year, the SDA expects to advertise for bids for the design and construction of the school. Previous estimates have put the price at $61 million.
Meanwhile, the SDA expects to ask for bids for the Hazel/Marshall project by the end of this year, said agency spokeswoman Andrea Pasquine. “After the construction contract is awarded, we will announce the construction schedule,’’ she said.
Previous estimates have put the cost of the Hazel/Marshall school at $42 million. Under state law, the SDA provides the funding and handles the construction of new schools in New Jersey’s poorest cities.
Some staff members at the Great Falls Academy, which is housed in the old School 16, near where the new one will be built, have complained about dust emanating from the demolition. But Councilman Andre Sayegh, who represents the 6th Ward where the project is being done, has he hasn’t heard anything from his constituents about the dust. “A few complained because they were losing parking during the work,’’ said Sayegh. “That’s it.’’
David Martinez lives on 22nd Avenue, near the corner of E. 20th Street, across from the site. He said the company always has a worker hosing down the demolition dust to keep it from spreading . “They seem like they know what they’re doing,’’ Martinez said.