Skip to comments.N.J. made mess of this laundromat
Posted on 08/27/2006 6:58:25 AM PDT by grjr21
Six months ago, Alexander Sterin was running a laundromat in East Camden with 6,000 square feet of fluffing and folding. He paid his workers and his taxes, and still had plenty of quarters left to support his family.
Today, Sterin is a financial mess and the Wash House is abandoned. Graffiti covers the walls, weeds wind through the parking lot. Men loiter near the boarded-up entrance, ignoring the signs that read No Trespassing: Property of the State of New Jersey.
For this, Sterin - and Camden - have the New Jersey Schools Construction Corp. (SCC) to blame.
The SCC condemned Sterin's property and forced him out of business, but has yet to pay him for his troubles.
And so much for the urgency of having sheriff's officers kick customers out of the place in March: The SCC swears demolition will begin this winter, but officials at the Camden School District say the SCC remains so engulfed in its mismanagement scandals that groundbreaking for Dudley Elementary is at least 18 months away, if it ever happens.
"The project is on hold," district spokesman Bart Leff says. "The SCC squandered the money before they could build it."
Sterin, a native of Russia and now a naturalized citizen, is left to marvel that such an un-American experience could befall him here, in the home of the free.
"In Russia, there wouldn't be a conversation - they'd just take your property," Sterin told me last week. "This is worse. They look you in your face, smile, and tell you it will be all right." He's fighting the state in court.
Michael Sterin scrapped med school to help his old man run laundromats on both sides of the river. Despite a few bumps with liens and civil suits, it was a profitable partnership. The Sterins say the Wash House, inside an old KFC at Federal Street and Marlton Pike, made $30,000 a month.
No wonder they cringed when a consultant informed them the SCC was seizing the spot through eminent domain to build a school.
"I remember it as yesterday," Alexander Sterin says, with venom in his voice. "I became sweaty, my hair wet. They say, 'Don't worry, we'll pay you fair-market value.' "
Sterin took some comfort in knowing the government would help him move. That is, until the best the clueless relocation specialist could come up with was a site in Cherry Hill and two in warehouses.
"I would have to be completely out of my mind to move my business to wealthy area or an industrial park," Sterin later wrote Gov. Corzine.
The letter was forwarded to the SCC and Public Advocate's Office, neither of which would comment because the case remains in court.
Even the fair market value of Sterin's land is up for grabs. Appraisals range from $280,000 to $320,000.
Either way, $200,000 will go to pay off the mortgage. The rest, he was shocked to learn, will be used to clean up environmental contamination the SCC discovered - damage caused by a gas station decades ago.
"They take his property and then say he has to clean it up," Sterin's frustrated attorney, Ed Borden, explained. "The statute says they can."
Desperate to get back in business, Sterin decided to tackle the move and construction himself - naively thinking he'd get $318,000 in relocation expenses faster that way. Instead, he's drowning in paperwork, never quite providing the SCC with the right information to get reimbursed.
Sterin says he was forced to sell another property in Philadelphia to stave off creditors.
"It's been a nightmare," his other attorney, John Penberthy, told me. "We're dealing with a bureaucracy set up to acquire land and build schools. They don't give a flying you-know-what about the little guy they're taking from."
The little guy doesn't have much left. If and when he gets back in business, he now has three competitors in the neighborhood.
Sterin looks down the street at the vacant Wash House and stiffens. "You should have seen it," he reminisces. "So nice, clean, nothing like what people think of Camden
Oh man , Don't tell me you actually believed them.
We're from the government and we're here to help.
Sadly, New Jersey is a mess and this is just another example.
There is a person in charge of the redevelopment funds for Camden.
You might remember him, he was a senator at one time.
This guy's problem is with the voters that elected the government that drove him out of his building.
If the voters are not responsible why vote? Why even have a system of self government at all?
I Wonder what percentage of NJ's outrageous taxes goes to corruption.
It's like a Yackov Smirnov(sp?) joke gone bad.
Sterin should move, screw that socialist state.
Sounds like this poor guy needed to join the Mafia when he had a chance. The consiguleri is very persuasive when public works are involved.
That is funny (in a way).
Article 1, Section 10, US Constitution:
"No State shall make anything but gold and silver COIN a payment of debt."
This guy should sue for payment in silver or gold coins if he hasn't already been compenstated for the land and business that he lost.
LOLOL......good grief. I do know better.
Hezbocrats, no doubt.
Only the first part of that sentance is ever true.
You forgot to mention Diebold machines.
So your point is the voters are not to be held responsible for their choices. Wouldn't it then be more pragmatic to not have elections in N.J. maybe just a coin toss? This way the citizens could have no part at all in their version of self government.
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