Has St. Anthony’s School been sold?

EAST NEWARK

After much speculation about the future of the former St. Anthony School in the borough, The Observer has learned that the property has been sold.

That transaction could signal the prelude for an eventual consolidation or merger of the Catholic parishes based at Holy Cross Church in Harrison and St. Anthony’s in East Newark.

Mass continues to be celebrated at St. Anthony’s Church on N. Second St., but as early as September 2012, the Rev. Joseph Girone, the then-pastor of Holy Cross, registered a website www.holycross-stanthony.org listing religious activities and Mass times for Holy Cross and St. Anthony Churches.

That website remains active but still “under construction.”

Girone’s replacement, the Rev. John Carlos DeSousa, who was named in early 2016, is serving as administrator of both parishes. He recently announced from the pulpit at Holy Cross that a possible union of the parishes is being actively explored as part of the archdiocesan New Energies Parish Initiatives.

Jim Goodness, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, last week confirmed that the school building which the borough has used as a community center for the past 15 or so years was purchased by Harrison Properties LLC for $700,000.

“The sale was consummated in the last few weeks and we expect to close sometime in July,” Goodness said.

An archdiocesan real estate website lists the building as about 60 years old, with each floor consisting of about 5,400 square feet. The first floor has a “large banquet-style hall,” with bathrooms; the second floor has “four standard-size classrooms and storage area” and the basement has a large hall, adjunct side hall, kitchen and small bathroom.

The property is zoned for 2-family residential/commercial/recreation use. The parking lot has room for 35 vehicles.

Calvin Xiao, listed as the buyer’s representative, was contacted by The Observer and asked what his client intended to do with the 2-story-plus-basement, 16,000-square foot brick building and parking lot, which fronts along Sherman Ave. between N. Second and John Sts.

“I have no comment for you,” Xiao told a reporter. “A plan for the property hasn’t been finalized.”

It could be that answer will be forthcoming quite soon East Newark Mayor Joseph Smith last week told The Observer that someone had phoned Borough Hall to request a list of property owners within a 200-foot radius of the St. Anthony site at Second and John Sts.

That could be a signal that some entity plans to file an application with the borough’s joint Zoning/Planning Board for land use approvals for development of the site.

If such an application were filed and the board scheduled a public hearing, the applicant would be required to notify area property owners of the hearing.

However, the request for the list of addresses was made by someone other than “Harrison Properties” and the borough would not immediately disclose the entity’s name.

While the property was on the market, Goodness said, “there was interest from the [borough] and a couple of prospective [private] buyers.”

Last fall, the borough governing body voted to authorize bonding for up to $500,000 for acquisition of the property and environmental cleanup costs. Reportedly, the borough and Board of Education had hoped to secure the building to relieve pressure on its cramped elementary school.

But those plans would seem to be moot now with the announced purchase by an outside entity.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.