Bayonne Mayor James Davis and City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski are again butting heads over redevelopment, this time over a proposed five-building, 1,250 unit project slated for a hearing and vote before the Bayonne Planning Board in April. The massive project would include 10,000 square feet of commercial space, two parking structures, and a park.
The redevelopment is proposed by Bayonne Partners Urban Renewal, which consists of three members of the Boraie family including Omar, and his sons Sam and Wasseem. The project would be located at the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY), as part of the “Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor.”
Last week Politico first reported in a subscriber-exclusive story that redeveloper Wasseem Boraie had donated $25,000 to the political action committee (PAC) Government for the People. The PAC was founded by former State Senator Ray Lesniak to support Davis in his bid for a third term as a mayor.
Wasseem Boraie is the vice president of Boraie Development, and also sits on the board of the Harbor Station South Special Improvement District, which is located at MOTBY. The $25,000, approximately half of what the PAC had raised, came ahead of an expected planning board hearing that has been scheduled for April.
That now-defunct PAC has since been shut down by Lesniak after political consultant Sean Caddle pleaded guilty to his role in a murder-for-hire plot. The PAC had paid Caddle $2,500 in December, just one month before he plead guilty to hiring two men to kill former associate Michael Galdieri in his Jersey City apartment.
Caddle has been heavily involved in Hudson County politics, having worked for the Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice in the past. That PAC spent money in the 2014 municipal election run off that saw Davis first get elected.
In addition to the aforementioned donation, two employees of the Weiner Law Group, which is representing the project, had donated $10,000 each to the PAC. The Parsippany-based firm is also where Lesniak used to be a partner.
Now, the application for the project will head to the Bayonne Planning Board for final site plan approval on April 12, just one month before the May 10 municipal election.
“I think [Wasseem Boraie] is worried that if Jimmy Davis doesn’t get reelected his sweetheart deal goes away,” Ashe-Nadrowski said in another Politico subscriber-exclusive story from March 23. However, she noted that she was unsure if she would vote for the project.
Davis says redevelopment key to Bayonne’s success
Following the publication of the story, the Davis campaign said the project is a key part of Mayor Davis’ vision to revitalize Bayonne and alleged Ashe-Nadrowski was trying to sabotage the proposed redevelopment. The campaign noted that she had voted to approve it in the past as well as for a payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement.
“If Sharon Nadrowski gets her way and kills this project, she will not only sabotage the long-awaited redevelopment of the Military Ocean Terminal that Mayor Davis has successfully spearheaded, she will also expose Bayonne taxpayers to millions of dollars in legal liability by denying an ‘as of right’ approval,” said Davis campaign spokesman Phil Swibinski.
“Mayor Davis paused residential development in Bayonne neighborhoods to give residents a chance to study its long-term impacts, but everyone supports this kind of mixed-use development at MOTBY — everyone except Sharon Nadrowski, who is apparently willing to flip-flop and potentially cost Bayonne taxpayers millions of dollars just to score cheap political points.”
According to Swibinski, the developers of the “Landing District at MOTBY” project are under contract with the city to purchase the land and are poised to begin construction immediately after receiving final site plan approval. The project conforms to the existing zoning for the MOTBY area, and if the Planning Board does not approve it, the city would open itself up to significant legal costs and exposure, he added, calling this Ashe-Nadrowski’s “latest stunt.”
“Sharon Nadrowski is proving every day that she would be a disaster for Bayonne taxpayers, putting them on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars and raising property taxes at a time when residents can least afford it,” said Swibinski. “During these challenging economic times Bayonne needs a leader like Mayor Davis with a record of stabilizing property taxes, not someone like Nadrowski who is willing to risk the city’s financial future for her own political gain.”
Davis announced last month that he would pause new residential development within existing city neighborhoods in order to study its effect on quality of life. However, he stated at the time that this directive did not apply to development at the MOTBY site, which according to Swibinski, is one of Mayor Davis’ top priorities and he has successfully brought numerous projects to the long dormant site, including residential development, retail sites like Costco, Starbucks and other commercial projects that will create thousands of quality, good-paying jobs for residents.
Ashe-Nadrowski fires back
In response to press release from the Davis campaign, Ashe-Nadrowski hit Davis for supporting redevelopers over taxpayers.
“Once again, Mayor Davis is choosing the side of the outside big developer over the taxpayers of Bayonne,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “For the average voter this is a simple question: Should Bayonne sell a piece of property for $35 million or $95 million?”
While Ashe-Nadrowski has not decided which way she is going to vote yet, she criticized the sale of the land for being less than what it is worth.
“That extra $60 million can be used to stabilize taxes, reinvest in our small businesses, fix our streets, address our flooding problems, and even go towards building schools,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “But instead, Davis would rather the developer get a sweetheart deal and the residents get the short end of the stick.”
According to Ashe-Nadrowski, Davis is close with the redeveloper, Wasseem Boraie.
“I know Jimmy and Wasseem are friends,” Ashe-Nadrowski alleged. “I know they go out to private dinners. I know Borraie are a major contributor to his campaign. Great. But while Jimmy is being wined and dined who is protecting Bayonne taxpayers?”
Ashe-Nadrowski concluded: “I am not opposed to Borraie developing the site, but they need to pay their fair share. The only way to assure that is for the City Council to revoke their designation as developer and re-open negotiations. Borraie sat on their hands for six years, they can wait another six months.”
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.