West Orange Town Council Addresses "Prism-gate"

Public asks council for answers about the struggling developer


The West Orange Township Council addressed concerns regarding the historic Edison Battery Factory and its re-developer, Prism Capital Partners, at its meeting Tuesday night. 

The council echoed the frustration of the public at not getting timely answers to questions about the developer’s financial position. 

“The public is really concerned, as is the council,” said Councilman Jerry Guarino. "(They are wondering) is (the redevelopment project) going to be viable? Is it going to happen and is the township exposed? The township is not exposed to any liability; we’re doing our job… it gets emotional. 

“The township isn’t giving (Prism) any money unless they maintain their requirements,” he said. “But the taxpayers aren’t exposed to any loss.” 

to the township and one of their properties was foreclosed upon. The developer has invested around $60 million into the Edison Battery property.

According to West Orange administrators, before Prism can put shovel to soil, their project still has to be approved by the state’s historic preservation commission, a process that is underway. 

With the backdrop of federal tax hikes on middle income households, Council President Victor Cirilo said he understands the public’s concerns, and said they will be addressed in further detail at upcoming budget hearings. “We haven’t raised taxes in three years and we’ve lowered the amount spent to 2008 levels, so right now our budget is around $73 million dollars,” he said. “We’re doing pretty decent. (But in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy) it’s going to be tough to do again this year.” 

After public comments, the council approved the consent agenda, which included reimbursements totaling $185,081 to residents who overpaid on their property taxes last year, the temporary 2013 budget (attached to this article as a PDF) and transfers of $386,128 among accounts, among others. West Orange reports unspent 2012 appropriations of $477,008.

Gary Englert January 17, 2013 at 10:06 PM
wohopeful: As I remain ready and willing to hear your grand plan asx to what the Township should be doing to move redevelopment forward and/or improve its financial position, I most certainly have an open mind. Unfortunately, rather than providing anything substantive, you continue the same inaccurate tripe that accomplishes and says nothing. There has been no "bait and switch or any "shell game." There is scant clear evidence of "bankruptcy or insolvency" but, more than ample evidence of Prism having significant income and resources tos sustain our project while pursuing others. This remains a process playing out during the worst economy in our lifetimes and it's also a process that hasn't cost the people of West Orange a penny to date.
john anthony prignano January 17, 2013 at 10:35 PM
wohopeful George Orwell, 1984; "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."
wohopeful January 18, 2013 at 01:40 AM
Prism is exhibiting very serious financial problems as they habitually pay their property taxes late, are unable to maintain the contractual escrow funds, have not paid their mortgages, have had properties foreclosed upon, etc. Prism has stated that they do not have the funding to start the project and there is no timeline when they will ever be financially solvent to do anything to downtown West Orange. The time has come for the township of WO to sever ties with Prism and move on before we are embroiled in more of their shell games, bait and switch, double talk and financial troubles. It is clear that this project will never come to pass with the involvement of Prism as they have stalled the project for at least six years. This travesty that is Prism cannot be allowed to continue endlessly and drag the good hard working taxpayers down with the financial collapse of Prism. The answer is clear and the time is now, we must sever the relationship as a result of Prism's numerous defaults and move on. Prism may pursue other remedies for their real estate.
Gary Englert January 18, 2013 at 03:17 AM
wohopeful: Your repetitive, inaccurate nonsense aside, the Township can't unilaterally "sever its relationship with Prism" without due cause which it has yet to be presented with and I'm reasonably sure no court would rule that it had. Your suggestion simply opens a can of worms that would result in significant legal expenses being incurred by the Township when none currently are...not to mention the loss of revenue that it is currently receiving. Without the promise of a PILOT program, the redevelopment zone would become worth a fraction of what it is currently assessed and Prism would be entitled to relief. Difficult as it may be for you to do, you need to think thes through.
Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA, PP January 18, 2013 at 04:30 PM
All: while everyone has points + & - on this project, please go all the way back to my original message. The site looks like something out of the TV Show the Walking Dead. In fact may be Prisim can make some money using the site as a movie set. In the meantime, where are the Township's Zoning Officer and Property Maintenance people. If any of our properties looked this bad, we would be slapped w/a fine. Make Prisim put back the green screen until they get started, so at least the site will not be Prisim testified before the Planning Board that the pre-cast conreted components for the Parking Garage are in the yard of the pre-caster out in PA. Has anyone from the township actually seen these components? Jerry such an eye sore.


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