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Paterson Targets Abandoned Properties; New List Identifies 536 in the City

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A vacant house on Watson Street, which had 12 properties on city list. This house is part of the city's flood acquisition list and is not part of the new list of abandoned properties.
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PATERSON, NJ – Godwin Avenue is far from one of Paterson’s longest streets. It runs just four blocks long in the southeastern corner of the 4th Ward.  But on those four blocks are more abandoned and vacant properties than on any other street in the city, according to a list compiled by Paterson’s Community Development department.

Godwin had 23 properties on the list, followed by 12th Avenue, which had 22; N. Main Street, which had 18; and Main Street, which had 17.

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Overall, city inspectors have identified 536 abandoned or vacant properties in Paterson, according to the list. Community Development Director Lanisha Makle said the owners of 118 of those properties have complied with Paterson’s new registration requirements for abandoned and vacant land and paid $29,500 in registration fees.

Last September, the city created the registration requirement for vacant properties as a way of generating revenue to cover costs when the city has to do safety work and other upkeep on them. The list also may help the city craft a program that would convert abandoned buildings back into viable housing stock, officials said.

During a presentation at the March 20 city council meeting entitled, “Turning Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places,’’ Makle spoke of the possibility that Paterson could seize property from “problem property owners.’’

Newark’s director of Housing and Real Estate, Mike Meyer, accompanied Makle at the council meeting and outlined Newark program. Meyer said Newark has identified 1,160 abandoned properties. The goal, he said, is for the city to push the owners to make needed repairs, or for the city to take ownership and put the properties in the hands of new owners who would rehabilitate and maintain them.

So far, Newark has worked with the owners to get 151 of those buildings renovated, Meyer said. Newark has targeted another 253 of the abandoned properties for condemnation and city acquisition.

Normally, local governments in New Jersey can use eminent domain to acquire property for large redevelopment projects or for public projects, said Allan Mallach, of the National Housing Institute, who participated in the city council discussion on abandoned properties. But city government also can acquire abandoned properties through a “spot-blighting” provision in eminent domain laws, Mallach said.

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