On March 30, 2014, I wrote what would be my first of many letters to the editor entitled “Betrayed” about the Monarch project that is proposed to be built on the northern waterfront by the Barry family’s Applied Companies. That letter served to inform people about how the Barry family, a long time Hoboken based developer, reneged on a promise they made to our community and decided to exploit our northern waterfront for private use by building two residential towers on a location that they had agreed would be open and public space.
For those less familiar, through an extensive, multi-year public process in the late 1990s, the city, the Hoboken Planning Board, and Applied, memorialized and recorded their agreement which allowed Applied to build for-profit developments on six of seven blocks of what is known as the Shipyard Development. And in exchange, the seventh block – the only block that is directly on the waterfront – would be developed as public space in line with Hoboken’s master plan calling for a public waterfront.
However, in 2011, ignoring all of its previously (and currently) earned financial benefits from the completed first six phases, the Barry family claimed it no longer wanted to build out the promised community giveback because it was too costly. Instead said they had to build “up” to make it feasible.
Almost six years later, six legal cases are being fought, on behalf of all Hoboken residents, by the City of Hoboken, the Hoboken Planning Board, Fund for Better Waterfront, and the Hudson Tea Buildings. And next Tuesday, Feb. 28, oral arguments by these parties will be heard for three of the cases on appeal by the Appellate Court in New Brunswick at 10 a.m.
This is a critical day in the history of this battle. These appeals address what we feel are inappropriate rulings by the Hudson County lower courts that favor a well-known and influential developer. Two of these appeals questioning the appropriateness of not just one, but two judges giving the almost never used “deemed approval” as overriding decisions for each the Hoboken Planning Board and Hudson County Planning board decisions. For “deemed approval” decisions, case law requires an intentional effort by boards to delay due process for developers, and in our situations, this could not be further from the truth. The third appeal questions the validity of the precedent setting ruling by the judge that a Developers Agreement is not binding and can be changed by one party. For those interested, “Amerada Hess” and “Toll Bros. vs. Burlington County” are the most relevant cases being applied/misapplied in these appeals.
So please let’s remember why we are here. What drives this fight is the unanimous support within our community to preserve our waterfront for its intended use – for the public’s enjoyment, a fight that started over thirty years ago by many of you. A fight caused by an unscrupulous developer and neighbor who betrayed us. Hoboken loses if Applied wins.
Hudson Tea Buildings resident,
co-founder of Hoboken Residents for a Public Waterfront