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Newark’s State Street School is a small ramshackle building with eight classrooms that hasn’t been used since the 1950’s. Back in 2016 then-Superintendent Chris Cerf tried to get its costs, along with 11 other unusable buildings, off the district books but no one wanted it. Finally, Newark real estate developer Hanini Group bought it from the district for $650,000 with plans for a redesign in order to lease it to the Historical Preservation Committee for both a museum and the Newark Boys Chorus School.
But all that is on hold because Superintendent Roger Leon and the Newark School Board want it back part of their land-grab that includes a building already renovated by KIPP that houses 500 elementary school students. Sure, State Street can’t be a school but Leon and the Board are contemplating a “complete renovation to bring it back online as a Student/Administrative Support Center.”
Or let’s call it an Roger Leon’s version of Manifest Destiny.
Tapinto Newark reports that of the $650,000 reaped by the district for the sale to Hanini of State Street School, two-thirds of it, or $430,000, is gone. Where’d it go? To a Morristown law firm called Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti that represents Leon and the School Board. Those are the fees thus far in a lawsuit aiming to halt the conversion of State Street School to a museum and Chorus School on the grounds that the original agreement to sell the 12 schools said they would only be used for “housing, redevelopment, or economic development.”
Marion Bolden was superintendent of the district from 1999-2008 and now chairs the Newark Public Schools Historical Preservation Committee. In 2020 she told JerseyDIgs that State Street School was a valuable landmark, once the city’s “School for Colored Children” helmed by a 19-year-old principal. She thinks transforming the building as a museum and music center honors that legacy but right now she is “very discouraged.”
She told TapInto,
As the oldest building that still stands in the city and that also served as a school for young African-Americans, it was the ideal location for a museum and a school.
Meanwhile, Newark residents and state taxpayers cover the cost for Leon’s real estate ambitions.