City council again postpones vote on hospital eminent domain ordinances

The state Local Finance Board decision has been hanging since May

The battle over Bayonne Medical Center is at a standstill, pending approval at the state level.
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The battle over Bayonne Medical Center is at a standstill, pending approval at the state level.

For the fifth time, the Bayonne City Council has postponed a vote on two ordinances that would condemn the property of the Bayonne Medical Center through eminent domain.

CarePoint Health has been selling its assets, including Bayonne Medical Center. In November of 2019, Avery Eisenreich, owner of nursing home operator Alaris Health, purchased the grounds and building of Bayonne Medical Center.

CarePoint has been searching for an operator for the hospital ever since, signing an agreement in 2020 with BMC Hospital LLC to operate Bayonne Medical Center. Meanwhile, Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus purchased the grounds and building of Bayonne Medical Center from Eisenreich for $76 million.

Since the sale has closed, Hudson Regional has made clear its intention to operate the hospital, not BMC Hospital LLC. This has sparked a war between the two entities over who will operate the hospital.

In May 2020, the Hudson County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve three resolutions authorizing the Hudson County Improvement Authority to begin eminent domain proceedings on the Bayonne Medical Center property.

The Bayonne City Council has postponed a vote at its past five meetings, after holding a public hearing in May of 2021. The current holdup is at the state Local Finance Board, which has not taken action but must first okay the transaction before the council can act.

What’s the holdup?

The Local Finance Board was set to hear the matter in May. However, due to new information submitted by both Hudson Regional Hospital and BMC Hospital LLC before the meeting, the board opted to postpone the matter a month. While it was on the agenda at the June and July meetings, the board did not act.

The application did not appear on the Local Finance Board’s August or September meeting agendas. It is not clear if it will be on the board’s agenda in October.

A Public Information Officer for the Department of Community Affairs, of which the Local Finance Board is a part, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

‘Groundhog Day’

Meanwhile, the Bayonne City Council won’t vote on the ordinances until the board acts.

Like clockwork, the council voted to postpone both ordinances, with City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski voting no both times, and Second Ward City Councilman Sal Gullace abstaining due to a conflict of interest because he sits on the board of Bayonne Medical Center.

Ashe-Nadrowski opposes the ordinances and has tried to force a vote in the past, because they are currently doomed to fail. Her opposition, coupled with Gullace’s abstention, means these ordinances will fail to reach the supermajority threshold of four votes needed for them to pass.

This prompted Ashe-Nadrowski to pen a letter to Hudson County and the Local Finance Board requesting they end the eminent domain proceedings, but to no avail.

Just keep waiting …

First Ward City Councilman Neil Carroll, Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa, and City Councilman At-Large Juan Perez want to wait for the Local Finance Board to make a decision.

La Pelusa has said he doesn’t want to vote on the matter when the board could reject the ordinances, making it a moot point.

The eminent domain ordinances will likely be on the council’s agenda for the Oct. 20 meeting at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 630 Avenue C. Residents can attend in person or online. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org and click on the event on the calendar webpage.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.