The Bayonne City Council has postponed an ordinance that would have approved the Gamal Group East redevelopment plan which encompasses the portion of the former Caschem industrial site to the east of Avenue A.
The reason for the postponement was that the required consistency review for the redevelopment plan before the Bayonne Planning Board has not yet occurred. The plan was slated to undergo that review at its Jan. 11 meeting, but the meeting was cancelled due to a lack of quorum when two board members resigned for professional reasons and two others tested positive for COVID-19.
Due to this, the council voted unanimously to postpone the public hearing and vote on the ordinance at its Jan. 19 meeting until its February meeting after the planning board’s consistency review. The consistency review may be held at the next planning board meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 8, which will likely be held virtually. The city council will meet again at 7 p.m. Feb. 16, with in-person and virtual options. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.
The new plan would allow the property owner to construct six-story mixed-use multi-family residential and commercial buildings with hundreds of units at the site. The main difference between this plan and the original is an increase in the maximum height and maximum number of units allowed on the site.
Addressing the flier
Before the council voted to postpone the public hearing on the ordinance, First Ward City Councilman Neil Carroll addressed a controversial flier that circulated regarding warehouse plans for a 16-story cold storage warehouse proposed by property owner for the other portion of the site to the west of Avenue A.
“Being the representative of the First Ward and being a resident, I feel whoever put out a document in the last week owes the entirety of the First Ward an apology for insulting their intelligence and fear mongering,” Carroll said. “And whoever distributed it and didn’t attach their name to it. He or she owes the residents an apology because it was insulting.”
While not naming names, Carroll demanded an apology for the flier. While Mayor James Davis has pointed the finger at City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski as being behind the flier in a statement by spokesperson Phil Swibinski, Ashe-Nadrowski told the Bayonne Community News she was not behind it and received it in her mailbox like other residents in the neighborhood.
In response to resident concerns about the warehouse plans, Law Director Jay Coffey said that nothing was before the council regarding that and added it was allowed with the underlying zoning.
“The fact of the matter is, is nothing before this Council regarding the 16-story building,” Coffey said. “It was an application made in December by the developer. He’s got an as-right application before the planning board. He doesn’t have to go to zoning board because he’s allowed to put a 16 story building there without having to go for a variance.”
And the property owner, longtime resident Jimmy Gamal, has told the Bayonne Community News that he is only “exploring” the warehouse option, alongside different options including a hotel and senior center among others.
The original redevelopment plan and the lawsuit
Ashe-Nadrowski argued that the original Caschem redevelopment plan that failed before the city council would have prevented the warehouse application.
“It is true that would be allowed, but not with the plan that was before the council, the one just died,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “That would have prevented the 16-story warehouse because it had different zoning.”
The council then voted to postpone the ordinance until February. Following the postponement, attorney Scott Salmon addressed the council on behalf of resident Robert Archibald.
Archibald in suing the city, alleging it violated the Open Public Meetings Act at its December meeting when the original Caschem redevelopment plan failed before council without a public hearing or vote. Archibald is seeking to have the city hold a public hearing for the original Caschem redevelopment plan. Salmon applauded the council for postponing the matter, but chided it for not allowing the public hearing now and at its December meeting.
“I’m here on behalf of Robert Archibald who is a resident of Bayonne who is suing the city over its refusal to allow the public to comment on the original proposal that was supposed to be up for debate last month,” Salmon said. “Instead, this Council not only refused to allow the hearing that it was required by law to hold, it refused to even hold a vote at all before advancing the proposal that was again supposed to be discussed tonight, but was then tabled before any again before any discussion again could be held.”
‘Bait and switch?’
Salmon criticized the council for not holding a hearing and voting it down and instead just letting the ordinance for the original redevelopment plan fail by not seconding the motion.
“I would like to know, I’d love to know is what the Council is afraid that it is so afraid of that can’t even let the public speak on either proposal and for members the Council put their names on an up or down vote,” Salmon said.
In response, Ashe-Nadrowski said that she was in favor of holding the public hearing for the original plan.
“I just want to say for the record, I did call for the public hearing. I did not get any second, but I advocated for it,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “Not all the council didn’t want to hear from the public, but I certainly did.”
Carroll applauded Salmon and other residents for speaking about the issue during the meeting, albeit it was during the public comment portion: “I want to applaud you as a member of the public for talking about this issue at a meeting and all the members of public talking about this issue. We’re making our minds up as we go after hearing from the public, which we’ve done now too.”
Coffey interjected to warn the council from speaking further on the matter since Salmon and his client Archibald has filed a lawsuit against the city: “I would caution everyone to no speak with respect to this this evening, because we will deal with this in court.”
Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph Turula is set to decide the case on Feb. 4.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.