ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The South End Grocery’s windows remain dark and doors are locked weeks after a fire extinguisher reportedly malfunctioned, ruining hundreds of food items, then a roof leak that Trevon Jackson says he, his wife, and kids simply couldn’t handle on their own.
“We did have three people come on this week to train and begin working with us, so we will be able to reopen next week with those additional hands,” Jackson announces Friday.
However, still hanging over their heads are unpaid loans with lenders Key Bank, Broadview, and the Albany County Capital Resource Corporation (CRC) demanding seven months of arrears.
“I think everybody has extended themselves to very significant lengths to try to make this project successful, and things don’t always work out the way you want them to,” says Kevin O’Connor, CEO of the Advance Albany County Alliance, which handles the loan on behalf of the CRC.
“Kevin has made a practice of talking to the news in a misleading fashion, instead of talking to me,” Jackson fires back.
The fierce debate happening between Jackson, on behalf of the African-American Cultural Center, and the Advance Albany County Alliance represents months of back-and-forth over non payment of the original loan used for the center to purchase the former McDonald’s on South Pearl Street, which now houses the grocery.
Jackson had previously stated the loan would be repaid through a grant by Congressman Paul Tonko’s office. However, a response from Tonko’s office shows the congressman has filed a letter requesting funding to BlueLight Development Group, a separate non-profit organized by Jackson.
The grant is contingent on passage of the 2024 federal budget, and “there is no firm timeline on when, or even if, this will occur,” writes Tonko’s representative.
“BlueLight Development is not a part or party to the loan, nor does it have any relationship to the loan,” O’Connor further reiterates.
In response to “Albany County turning up the heat”, Jackson says he’s now committed BlueLight Development Group funds to fulfill the South End Grocery debt.
“The truth is, BlueLight—separate, together, or what—has made a commitment philanthropically to pay for what people need. We enrich other nonprofits—namely the African-American Cultural Center—with our own resources where necessary,” Jackson says.
He says the money will come from independent fundraising and the Jackson family’s personal resources. Jackson also once again adds the three lenders had previously agreed to pause his payments.
An email sent to Jackson in July 2022 states the CRC, Key Bank, and CAP COM—before a merger to become Broadview—had agreed to review a forbearance request if the African-American Cultural Center fulfilled a list of requirements.
“He’d have to submit a plan with financials and tax returns. Normal kind of things, and to my knowledge, none of that was ever done,” O’Connor explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
“I think it would be fair to say none of the lenders want the project to fail,” he goes on to say. “These are very, very difficult projects to make work, and sometimes it just doesn’t work in the first iteration. Maybe there’s some other variation or some new entities that need to get involved in this project. I think that’s what needs to be discussed, and I think everybody is willing to talk and figure this out.”
Jackson does admit he did not fully comply with the listed requirements for forbearance. However when asked about this, he says he believes this sudden push to move towards foreclosure after months of patience on behalf of the lenders represents an attempt to remove him from the South End Grocery project.
“Now is their time to prove that they were right and this wasn’t actually worth it and keep their hands clean while also trying to kick us out of the project,” Jackson says. “Their aim is to discredit the people in place trying to solve the problem, and my question to ask would be why? Why would you discredit someone whose only goal is to give and pay for the things people need?”
When asked for a statement on the South End Grocery, Key Bank referred NEWS10 to their original statement sent August 24:
We work hard to address our clients concerns and resolve them to the extent we are able. That being said, out of respect for clients’ privacy, we do not disclose or confirm that a person or business is a client, and we do not discuss clients’ activities with the bank
Matthew Pitts, Key Bank Regional Communications Manager
A statement by Broadview CEO Michael Castellana reads:
Broadview is steadfast in its commitment to improving our community in a variety of ways, including by providing financial help and low-cost loans to advance initiatives like the African American Cultural Center and The South End Grocery Store. While we will not provide specific loan information to respect the privacy of our borrowers, and cannot speak on behalf of any other lenders, I can share that Broadview has financially supported this initiative since the start. We believe our investments and input will help to provide the City of Albany with a valuable community resource. While the financial outcomes of the grocery store are not what was initially projected, we are hopeful that they will be resolved and the people of the South End will enjoy access to much needed resources.
Michael Castellana, Broadview Federal Credit Union CEO
NEWS10 also reached out to Linda Jackson-Chalmers, the President of the Board at the African-American Cultural Center; however, she was not available for comment via phone or email.