Mayor Wilda Diaz used her influence with Middlesex County officials to help a campaign contributor seal a deal to sell land to taxpayers for 14 times the price he paid to acquire it 29 years ago.
Barry Rosengarten, a real-estate developer and the chairman of the Perth Amboy Business Improvement District (BID), purchased the property for $360,000 in 1987, county property records show.
Rosengarten held the land, designated as lots 1 and 3 of Block 238 on the city’s tax maps, where the General Cable manufacturing facility destroyed by a large fire in the 1980’s, until he sold it to Middlesex County for $5.15 million in 2014.
Officials claimed that they had plans for revitalizing it into a public waterfront park. Diaz met with Middlesex County officials to convince them to make taxpayers overpay for the contaminated and vacant land.
A January 16, 2012 letter from Rosengarten says that he, Diaz, and Helga van Eckert, who was executive director of the city’s redevelopment agency at the time, first discussed the sale with Middlesex County Business Administrator John Pulomena and County Counsel Thomas Kelso regarding the property in a December 2010 meeting.
Former Council President Kenneth Balut says he was duped into voting for a 2011 resolution urging officials to explore the property acquisition, but he reversed his position when he learned Rosengarten and Diaz had discussed the deal with county officials.
“If I knew they were in negotiations at that time I wouldn’t have voted for it,” said Balut of a resolution the City Council approved in August 2011 supporting the city administration’s request that the county purchase the tract for use a waterfront open space project. “I believe the council was not given all the information.”
Diaz dodged calls and messages from reporters seeking comment.
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