To address the safety issue plaguing residents crossing Route 440, the Bayonne City Council has adopted an ordinance bonding $10 million for the construction of pedestrian bridges over Route 440 and East 25th Street.
The bond ordinance provides for various pedestrian bridge, roadway, and traffic-calming improvements and is in response to a delay in state funding.
At the public hearing, no residents spoke in favor or against the proposal. The ordinance was introduced at the Feb. 19 meeting.
Mayor James Davis voiced his support for the ordinance. He highlighted the growing need for the bridges as residential units nearby open and new residents move in to Bayonne.
“I want to thank the City Council for approving a resolution to appropriate funding for pedestrian bridges across Route 440 and another pedestrian bridge on East 25th Street,” Davis said in a statement. “As hundreds of new residential units and numerous new businesses are open or slated to open soon, we need to ensure our residents have safe pathways across Route 440.”
According to Davis, as a former Bayonne Police Captain, public safety is always on his mind.
A pedestrian was killed by a motorist on Route 440 between 21st and 22nd Streets in Nov. of 2019, according to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
The death was the fifth on Route 440 since 2014.
This is why the mayor has applauded the city’s move to complete the project, despite the previous withholding of state funds that would have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the pedestrian bridges.
Can’t wait for the state
The NJ Department of Transportation allocated funding for the project in 2018, but Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order in 2019 effectively withholding $250,000 in funds dedicated for the bridge project, a portion of the total cost of construction.
The pedestrian walkway would extend over Route 440 from the walkway already constructed over the 34th Street Light Rail Station that leads to a parking lot. The total cost of the project would be upward of $5 million.
Because Route 440 is a state road, the pedestrian walkway will be funded by the NJ Department of Transportation and the Federal Transportation Authority, which issued a $450,000 grant for the project in 2017.
However, the City of Bayonne is tired of waiting for the funds as safety hazards increase in the area due to the new residential developments and planned ferry terminal at the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY).
“Since the highway is state-owned, we had been navigating the processes to accomplish building these bridges, but we can no longer wait for this lengthy bureaucratic journey to come to us … that is why we are moving forward in this way,” Davis said.
Despite the city’s move to rectify the problem, the mayor said he still expects the state to contribute funding toward construction of the bridges.
“We fully expect our state government partners to eventually contribute to these critical bridges,” Davis said. “Public and private partnerships continue to help, and we look forward to financial assistance from developers.”
Developers building residential developments near the sites of the pedestrian bridges have agreed to contribute funds in exchange for tax abatements from the city.
PILOT agreements with developers
At the meeting, the council also introduced three different ordinances that granted tax abatements to two development companies for their residential developments in Bayonne.
Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski gave more details regarding the terms of the agreements after prompts from a controversial former candidate for city council, Peter Franco.
A tax abatement is when the city temporarily replaces taxes for a property in favor of what is commonly called a “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT). The property owner pays a negotiated fixed amount yearly to the municipality, but the payments do not contribute to school or county taxes, and for that reason are sometimes controversial.
The terms of the tax abatements run for 25 years.
The first tax abatement is for Avenue E Urban Renewal, LLC for its 306-322 Avenue E property. According to Ashe-Nadrowski, the residential building will house 67 units and will provide a ratio of 1:1 parking spots to residential units.
The second abatement will also be for Avenue E Urban Renewal for the residential development at 317 Avenue E. Ashe-Nadrowski said that this development consisted of 95 units with 105 parking spots and 50 bicycle stalls.
The two residential developments are part of the same project. The twin developments sit across the street from each other at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Syriac Catholic Cathedral, where demolition of the century-old church began earlier in the year.
In return, Avenue E Urban Renewal will contribute $600,000, consisting of $300,000 for each tax abatement, toward the pedestrian bridges.
Davis said the construction of the pedestrian bridges in Bayonne will contribute to a better quality of life for residents in the city.
“As Bayonne continues to rise, we will remain committed to quality- of-life issues for all of our community,” Davis said.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Dan Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.