11-story buildings may come to uptown piers
Judge sides with developers after Planning Board flubs defense; city will appeal
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Jan 26, 2014 | 1950 views | 0 0 comments | 63 63 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BREAKING GROUND SOON? – A Superior Court judge automatically approved the construction of two eleven-story towers on an uptown pier this week, but a city ordinance blocking development on such piers could still keep the bulldozers at bay.
BREAKING GROUND SOON? – A Superior Court judge automatically approved the construction of two eleven-story towers on an uptown pier this week, but a city ordinance blocking development on such piers could still keep the bulldozers at bay.
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A Superior Court judge on Thursday approved a developer’s application to build two 11-story residential towers, known colloquially as the Monarch Project, on the uptown Hoboken waterfront, after the city Planning Board, which had opposed its construction, missed a deadline to hold a hearing on the merits of the project.

The project, spearheaded by Shipyard Associates, a subsidiary of Ironstate Development, was first approved by the city’s Planning Board in 1997. That plan included the construction of three public-access tennis courts in addition to around 1,000 residential units.

The company, then known as Applied Housing and one of Hoboken’s major residential development companies, built a series of buildings northward along the uptown waterfront in the ensuing years, of which the Monarch project at the end of 15th Street was intended to be the last.

In 2012, however, Shipyard Associates decided to do away with the proposed tennis courts, replacing them with the two luxury apartment buildings. The city responded with a lawsuit to force Ironstate to stick to their original plan to build the courts.

A prior legal ruling had mandated that the Planning Board, which oversees and approves such projects, hold a hearing to hear the merits of the project’s current incarnation before a judge made a final decision. But apparently, the hearing was not held in time (though the Planning Board nevertheless issued a resolution denying the application) and so the project was approved automatically.
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“The Planning Board’s complete disregard of its statutory duty to hold a hearing on the merits constitutes a failure to act.” – Judge Nesle Rodriguez
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“The Planning Board contends that this denial constituted an ‘act’ sufficient to satisfy the automatic approval provision, and that automatic approval is otherwise inappropriate,” wrote Judge Nesle A. Rodriguez. “The Planning Board’s complete disregard of its statutory duty to hold a hearing on the merits constitutes a failure to act.”

The president of Ironstate Development, Michael Barry, said that Rodriguez’s decision was a justification of Shipyard’s position that the city tried to circumvent the legal process by failing to hold a hearing.

“Today’s decision [by Rodriguez] to grant automatic approval of the Monarch’s site plan application validates our contention all along of a deliberate attempt by the city to circumvent the legal process with respect to the site plan application process,” said Barry in a statement. “We’re thankful that the court recognized the Planning Board’s failure to follow statutorily-required procedures.”

Another roadblock?

Still, it is unclear whether the project will be able to proceed. The City Council passed an ordinance earlier this month that bars construction on the city’s piers in an effort to protect residents from Hurricane Sandy-type storm surges. A ban on residential development would seemingly sideline the project’s current.

At the time the ordinance passed, Mayor Dawn Zimmer alluded to the possibility that it would stop the Monarch, which she has long opposed, from breaking ground.

“Based on an analysis by FEMA, our city’s piers and platforms could be underwater by 6 feet in a 100-year storm. Given this possibility, the legislation prohibits residential and commercial development on our piers and platforms for the protection of future Hoboken residents and our first responders,” she said.

On Friday morning, Zimmer issued a statement arguing that she would continue to pursue legal action to stop the project from moving forward.

“We are very disappointed with the Monarch decision and will be aggressively pursuing an appeal at the proper time,” she said.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com

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