Hoboken and Jersey City protect hospitals with zoning

"Precarious" fate of hospitals leads to emergency action

Hoboken University Medical Center property may become part of a new "Hospital District" in the city's zoning code.
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Hoboken University Medical Center property may become part of a new "Hospital District" in the city's zoning code.

As the litigation continues between Alaris and CarePoint Health, and the fate of three local hospitals remains uncertain, Hoboken and Jersey City plan to protect the future of their respective hospitals through zoning.

History

CarePoint Health has dissolved and has been liquidating its assets. That includes selling Bayonne Medical Center (BMC), Christ Hospital, and Hoboken University Medical (HUMC.)

In October of 2019, CarePoint Health and RWJBH signed a letter of intent, whereby Christ Hospital and HUMC will become part of RWJBH.

In November, Avery Eisenreich, owner of Alaris Health, purchased the real estate of the Bayonne and Hoboken hospitals. Eisenreich also owns 25 percent of Christ Hospital.

According to a lawsuit filed on Dec. 4 on behalf of CarePoint Health, Eisenreich has allegedly interfered with CarePoint’s negotiations to find a hospital operator for Bayonne Medical Center and instead allegedly intends to turn it into a nursing home as well as allegedly interfered in CarePoint’s negotiations with RWJ Barnabas Health to operate Christ Hospital, allegedly jeopardizing the deal.

Now negotiations are falling apart between CarePoint and RWJBH, because CarePoint recently rejected an offer that RWJBH said was “fair and appropriate.”

CarePoint said it never received a draft lease as outlined in the letter of intent. Instead, CarePoint said it was asked to “gift” the HUMC and Christ Hospital real estate to RWJBH.

Protective zoning

On Feb. 5 the Hoboken City Council introduced an emergency ordinance in the city’s zoning code that would establish a Hospital Zone where HUMC currently stands at 308 Willow Ave.

If adopted on second reading, this would mean the area could be used only for medical purposes and “secures the present hospital use, and maintains and supports future growth and development of medical facility.”

According to the ordinance, the hospital, which opened in 1863, is a “critical part of the Hoboken community.”

As written, the C-4 Hospital District uses would include hospital and hospital-related facilities, including in-patient and out-patient services, medical and dental offices, as well as laboratories and diagnostic imaging.

Conditional uses, meaning uses that would have to be approved by variance, include senior citizen and assisted living facilities and rehabilitation facilities.

After the introductory ordinance passed unanimously on first reading, Councilman at large Jim Doyle said he was happy to see the zoning changes approved because “the hospital situation is sensitive and perhaps in a precarious place right now, and this will help protect the city and the hospital in the city.”

Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo said the zoning would help protect the hospital from becoming anything other than an acute care facility.

The following day Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said Jersey City too had protective zoning for Christ Hospital, and there was “zero chance” that zoning would change.

Christ Hospital, at 179 Palisade Ave., has views of the New York City skyline, which would make it a target for residential development.

“As the owners/buyers of Christ Hospital point fingers over the hospital’s future, one real issue of difference appears to be related to the land value underneath,” tweeted Mayor Fulop. “It’s on a cliff + w/amazing views of #NYC. To be clear: that land is zoned Medical Use Only today, and if the hospital closes, there is zero chance we entertain any changes to the existing zoning. Let’s take the dreams of big residential value for the property off the table bc it is never going to happen there after a hospital closes.”

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.