Mayor James Davis has announced that his administration is pausing the approval of new large-scale residential developments within existing neighborhoods in Bayonne. In response, City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, who is running against Davis for mayor in the May 10 municipal election, said the move was a “victory” ahead of a planned protest against redevelopment at the February meeting of the Bayonne City Council.
Major redevelopment on hold
“It is undeniable that Bayonne needed to act boldly and aggressively to attract new tax revenue when my administration took office, and I am very proud of the steps we have taken to secure our city’s financial future,” said Davis. “Now with a sufficient new revenue stream in place to protect our taxpayers and prevent major tax increases, we have the opportunity to take a step back and measure both the benefits and the costs of further development and to listen to the residents of our community to hear what they truly want for the future of Bayonne.”
According to Davis, the pause will allow the city to assess the long-term impacts that further construction will have on the community. Over the last eight years, the Davis administration has presided over a redevelopment boom in the city, helping Bayonne address and mitigate long term financial challenges that crippled the city’s budget. With nearly $80 million in new recurring revenues secured due to redevelopment, Davis now believes that the city’s financial health has improved to the point where further high-density residential development may not be necessary outside of specific areas such as the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY).
Under Davis’ new policy, any new projects that would add significant density to residential neighborhoods would be paused and financial incentives for projects such projects would not be submitted to the city council. Commercial development, projects that include direct job creation for Bayonne residents, and projects located at the MOTBY site would be exempt from this new directive and would continue to be submitted to the council for review and consideration.
No more PILOTs
No new long-term Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement applications will be presented for approval by the council until the Davis Administration has completed its review of the impact of the last eight years of redevelopment. As part of the new policy, the city will undergo a comprehensive evaluation of redevelopment projects currently in the pipeline as well as a study of developable land in the community, rental occupancy rates, demand for new housing and other factors.
According to Davis, the review will consider how additional redevelopments would cause disruptions to residents’ quality of life due to noise, increased traffic, loss of parking and other problems, as well as how new development will provide benefits such as job creation and tax revenue generation. He said his administration will also look for ways to ensure that any further new developments include major community givebacks such as affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, parks, new schools and more, and is also committed to ensuring that new developments are built with union labor whenever possible.
Additionally, Davis is calling on the council to oppose PILOT agreements, including one for a project that is scheduled to be voted on at the Feb. 16 council meeting, the proposed 18-story Silk Lofts high rise on Avenue E.
Davis’ slate on board
Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa and First Ward Councilman Neil Carroll, who are running on Davis’ council slate, applauded the measure.
“I have been an opponent of long-term PILOTs since I’ve served on the City Council, and I’m thrilled to see Mayor Davis announce that the city will be pausing these kinds of agreements that I believe give away too much of our tax revenue potential to developers,” said La Pelusa. “Mayor Davis was correct that Bayonne needed to change eight years ago to solve our financial crisis, but now that we’ve reached this point we can take an honest look at what’s best for our residents. I’m glad that Mayor Davis sees the need to study the impact of the current PILOTs and protect taxpayers from these long-term agreements that may not benefit our residents.”
“We have had tremendous, much-needed growth in Bayonne over the past eight years,” said Carroll. “Many months ago, however, I pointed out that there was a need for an absorption study in connection with the large-scale residential development in town. I am absolutely thrilled that we are now at the point where we can take a step back, analyze what we have and accurately examine what we need to do going forward.”
Jaqueline Weimmer, Second Ward City Council candidate on Davis’s slate, also approved of the policy which pauses the proposed 18-story Silk Lofts redevelopment located in the Second Ward.
“As a resident of the Second Ward I’m ecstatic to see Mayor Davis stand up for our quality of life by taking this important step back to properly examine and understand the impact that this high-rise development will have on our neighborhood and to allow the residents to have a fair chance to study the issue and provide their feedback and concerns,” said Weimmer. “Growth and development can be wonderful, but they must be done with care and consideration for the surrounding neighborhood. Bayonne residents need leaders who will put their interests first and that may mean making tough decisions to protect our city. This decision further demonstrates Mayor Davis’ commitment to the people and the community. I’m not certain every candidate in this race would have done the same.”
Ashe-Nadrowski claims victory
In response to Davis’ announcement, Ashe-Nadrowski called the new policy a win and said the move was a reaction to a planned protest at the upcoming council meeting regarding redevelopment.
“My campaign has won its first victory by forcing Jimmy Davis to understand that he can no longer govern by the back room deals and ignoring the residents of Bayonne,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “Clearly the Davis Administration heard that a crowd of opposition was forming for tomorrow night’s council meeting and decided to pull the plug instead of being embarrassed.”
According to Ashe-Nadrowski, the pause is too late and conveniently comes amid an election.
“Unfortunately this is too little too late from the Davis administration,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “Now that it’s an election year Jimmy has finally seen the light. The reality is that every PILOT that was ever approved was signed off by the mayor before it even made it to the council for a vote. Every redevelopment plan was written and promoted and supported by Jimmy Davis. As a result too many neighborhoods have already been negatively impacted by over development by out-of-town developers who benefited from the Davis PILOT tax program.”
She continued: “The one thing I can assure you is that from day one my administration will have a plan that will include community input from the beginning of a project to its completion.”
In a later statement, Davis campaign spokesperson Phil Swibinski said it was “laughable” that Ashe-Nadrowski is opposing PILOTs now after having voted for them in the past. He added: “Sharon Nadrowski has voted yes on every PILOT agreement that crossed her desk in the last eight years, including one for this very same project just a few weeks ago.”
The Bayonne City Council will meet at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. The public can attend in person or virtually via Tetherview. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org and click on the link 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.