SHENANGO TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Concerns and questions around the sale of the New Castle Youth Development Center have been heightened by the fact that the prospective buyer wasn’t talking.

But now in a phone interview, Asif Kunwar of the Hira Educational Services of America says he’d like to lay those fears to rest.

“What we do, who we are, what is the background, what we are trying to do… We are trying to have a positive impact on this area,” Kunwar said.

Kunwar says over the next year, he’ll be trying to transform the 143 acres and its 13 buildings into an alternative reform center aimed at turning troubled youth around by community service, therapy and education.

Hira bid $400,000 to purchase the site, but KDKA’s research finds that the company claims only one employee in an apartment in Newark, New Jersey, and has not reported income of more than $50,000 in each of the past three years.

In addition, the state of New Jersey revoked Hira’s non-profit status for failing to submit required financial reports for two consecutive years, though Kunwar says that’s been reinstated.

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “There’s nothing on paper that indicates you have the financial wherewithal to pull this off.
Kunwar: “To some extent, it is a pretty ambitious project. We are confident that we will be able to bring in enough support to do that.”

Kunwar concedes the organization does not yet have the money to undertake the project and will need funding from foundations and government, but rather than financial concerns, Kunwar said opposition to the purchase seems to be based on fears of selling the property to an Islamic organization.

“I’m really sorry to hear that from some responsible people who are making those claims when they have no basis,” he said.

Though late last week, Shenango Township supervisor Frank Augustine said that he was merely concerned about Hira’s ability to buy and maintain the site.

“This has nothing to do with race, religion,” Augustine said. “This is the economic viability of this community.”

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