Today, well over one hundred residents of an apartment complex on 112 Gregory Avenue in Passaic were left homeless after a fire ravaged through the entire complex. While the cause of the fire has yet to be determined by investigators, poor maintenance by the building’s owner and even worse oversight by the city’s housing inspectors, who have ignored safety violations in exchange for bribes, are clearly to blame. Another fire destroyed a warehouse on First Street in Passaic just three days ago according to NJ.com.
A few months ago, former Passaic Mayor Alex Blanco pleaded guilty to soliciting $110,000 in bribes from developers seeking to build an apartment complex for lower income residents. The developers had sought to build the complex on 417 Paulison Avenue–one block from the Gregory Avenue apartment complex that was consumed by the fire.
From 2010 through 2012, two developers were seeking to build eight low-income residential units on property they owned in Passaic. After the Passaic City Council and the Passaic Zoning Board of Adjustment granted approval, Blanco – who has been mayor since November 2008 – had an intermediary approach the developers in July 2011. The developers were told they were expected to provide a sizable payment to the mayor to ensure that the project would proceed.
Passaic residents know all too well that the city’s Jewish landlords and developers have long bribed public officials in the city to look the other way when it comes to building code violations and safety risks. Sadly, the city’s largely Hispanic, African-American, and Indian-American communities have become victimized by this corruption with building after building being destroyed by fires and poor housing conditions.
The city’s influential Council President, Gary Schaer, has been accused by many of being at the center of corruption in Passaic. In a November 2016 council meeting, shortly after Blanco’s resignation, NAACP’s Jeffrey Dye excoriated the Orthodox Jew:
Dye opened the meeting by lambasting Schaer, and questioned why residents would accept “anybody appointed by you, where this corruption starts.” Another activist, Howard Pujols, told the council, “You guys are going to take another gentleman who means well like Alex Blanco did, and lead him down a path of corruption.” Pujols charged that Schaer is too busy as assemblyman to devote enough attention to Passaic.
Dye and Pujols, who became a rising star in the city’s Hispanic community after leading public protests over a case of police misconduct in 2015, need to sharpen their focus on Schaer who is clearly at the heart of Passaic’s troubles.
Property tax records for 112 Gregory Avenue were not available. Several businesses, including Star Cleaning Services and Comp Bind Technology, apparently operate out of the Gregory Avenue apartment complex.