Residents Losing Patience After Town Paid Millions For Old Appliance Store

The property is falling apart and residents are losing patience. CBS2's Lisa Rozner reports.

Video Transcript

- In the meantime, it is a long-term investment or a waste of taxpayer money. Just a few years ago, we told you about a north New Jersey town that paid several million dollars for an old appliance store. Today that property is falling apart, and residents are losing patience. CBS2's Lisa Rozner reports now from Essex County.

LISA ROZNER: From Chopper 2, you can see the partial roof collapse of a building long known as Ciccolini's, a former furniture and appliance store on Nutley's Franklin Avenue. The mayor says Tuesday storms caused it. Windows shattered too.

- It really needs to be knocked down.

- Well, God forbid somebody was walking along the street and it caved in. That's a big-time lawsuit for this town.

LISA ROZNER: That's because the town of Nutley owns the property. It paid $3.4 million back in 2016. Town officials say it's because they didn't want a developer building apartments there and they needed to preserve parking. And back in 2018, we showed you how it became a dumping ground. We asked the mayor at the time why it spent the money without a vision.

- It's not that-- you know, we know what we're going to do with it. We just don't have the specific plan at this point.

LISA ROZNER: And three years later, there's still no plan, while in 2020, a contractor hired documented the deterioration inside.

- The only change I've seen is they decided that they would move the farmer's market here to kind of save face.

LISA ROZNER: And they've painted parking spaces to go along with paid meters, but neighboring businesses say no one uses it. Resident Neil Henning says when he asks the town what's the plan, he's told--

NEIL HENNING: We just hired somebody to do a study. We've got a new study.

LISA ROZNER: And records show in recent years the town has spent more than $100,000 hiring consultants for things like architectural reviews and planning services.

- It's just a money pit.

LISA ROZNER: The current mayor says something spectacular that's a destination adding activity to the town will go there.

MAURO TUCCI: Value is in the land.

LISA ROZNER: So what's stopping you from knocking it down?

MAURO TUCCI: Right now, the insurance people.

LISA ROZNER: He says now they've asked developers to submit proposals.

So how come the town didn't put out the request for interest back in 2017?

MAURO TUCCI: Because, quite frankly, we weren't sure as to what we were going to do.

LISA ROZNER: Former New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski says this is unusual.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI: Municipalities aren't generally in the business of investing in real estate. That effectively took it off the tax roll.

LISA ROZNER: The mayor says at one point the town may have needed it for affordable housing required by the state. His message to frustrated taxpayers--

MAURO TUCCI: Anything worth having is usually worth waiting for.

LISA ROZNER: And he says by the end of the year, the town will know exactly what everyone's been waiting for. In Nutley, New Jersey, Lisa Rozner, CBS2 News.

- Now the mayor believes that the property may be worth 30% more than what the town paid for it. The state agency that oversees the ethics of municipal spending said that it could not comment because it did not know all the facts of the situation.