As she trades blows with Mayor James Davis over certain redevelopment at the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY), City Council President and mayoral candidate Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski has laid out her plan for redevelopment in the city.
Incumbent Mayor James Davis, whom Ashe-Nadrowski is running against in the May 10 municipal election, has announced a pause on most major residential redevelopment outside of certain areas such as MOBTY, pending the completion of an impact study to determine what further construction would have on the city. He has touted the redevelopment under his administration as being a key part of what helped mitigate long-term budget shortfalls, bringing in $80 million in recurring revenues.
On the other hand, Ashe-Nadrowski’s plans for redevelopment, first outlined in the March 27 issue of her “Solution Sunday” series, envision the future of redevelopment in the city as involving residents more from the start, planning redevelopment for and by the residents, requiring redevelopers to contribute their share to the affordable housing trust fund, and ensuring the city is getting a good deal.
“There’s been a lot said about redevelopment, and much more to come,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “When speaking with residents around the city, some stand-out issues are concerns that many projects are too large, too dense, and too fundamentally different that the character of the neighborhoods that they know and love. Worse yet, I’ve heard concerns about how the these projects get started in the first place. Many feel left in the dark, and do not know where to turn. Here are a few of my ideas and plans for changing the tone of redevelopment in Bayonne.”
Resident involvement from the start
Ashe-Nadrowski’s called for more public input from the start of the redevelopment process, when a property is studied to determine if it can be designated as an area in need of redevelopment.
“One of the first things that happens before any property can be redeveloped is a study,” she said. “The redevelopment study determines whether or not properties meet certain legal criteria. This is a preliminary and often down-played stage, but an important one. Unfortunately, it is also one that requires very little public input. We can do better than what is just legally required!”
According to Ashe-Nadrowski’s proposal, the city would notify surrounding property owners and host community meetings to have conversations about the redevelopment at the start to address any concerns.
“To that end, under a Nadrowski administration, the City will notify the owners of the properties being studied, along with the neighbors in the immediate area of the property,” she said. “The City will host meetings with these individuals to talk about objectives, questions, and concerns. It’s my view that conversations need to happen early, to avoid conflict and confusion later.”
Planning for and by residents
Ashe-Nadrowski called for more public input throughout the redevelopment process.
“After properties are designated as part of an area in need of redevelopment, a redevelopment plan is crafted by the city to set a road map for what will ultimately be built,” she said. “Again, unfortunately, this is another step in the process that is very important, but requires very little public input. We can do better! The City retains professional planners to ensure projects are thought out. This is a perfect opportunity to learn what residents like about their neighborhood, and maybe even what it lacks – whether it be parking, adequate storm water drainage, or pedestrian access.”
According to Ashe-Nadrowski, her plans would require city planners to engage with residents through meetings and surveys.
“Redevelopment Plans are Bayonne’s plans,” she said. “I want to restate this… the City of Bayonne sets the Plan. No developer should ever be allowed to dictate our zoning and regulations! Under a Nadrowski administration city planners will be directed to engage directly with the area residents, though meetings and surveys, within 1,000 feet of the designated properties. These conversations are will determine what residents want to see, and need to have in their neighborhoods.”
Ashe-Nadrowski criticized the redevelopment in Bayonne for producing unaffordable housing.
“For years we’ve heard commitments to making Bayonne more affordable – Unfortunately, that simply hasn’t happened,” she said. “We need to shift our efforts to protecting those who need affordable housing options the most: our local senior citizens, United States military veterans, and those with different abilities and special needs. Development must help everyone, not just a few – and it certainly can’t leave people behind any longer.”
Per Ashe-Nadrowski’s plans, existing redevelopers will be held accountable to ensure they contribute to the city’s affordable housing trust fund.
“It’s a legal obligation that my administration will take very seriously,” she said. “Not only is it good for those who need these housing options, but it’s also good for the average taxpayer. Making sure that developers follow-through on their funding obligations just makes sense, and ensures that the City doesn’t have to unnecessary raise taxes to protect its own.”
Benefitting the city
Lastly, Ashe-Nadrowski called to ensure that redevelopment is always a good deal for the city, which in part appears to have prompted her aforementioned calls to renegotiate the sale of the land under that specific MOTBY project. The land for the redevelopment, known as the “Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor,” was agreed to be sold by the city for $35 million in 2015. However, the sale was not executed and now the land is worth more like $95 million, she said.
“The City’s biggest task with any redevelopment project is to make sure that it gets a good deal,” she said. “But what’s a good deal? Priority number one should always, always, always be the City as a whole, not one group over another. This means never hesitating to think creatively, never accepting something as a foregone conclusion, and always being willing to negotiate for what Bayonne and its residents deserve.”
As such, Ashe-Nadrowski wants to renegotiate the sale of the land to redeveloper Bayonne Partners Urban Renewal, LLC, a subsidiary of Boraie Redevelopment. She said she plans to introduce the necessary resolutions and ordinance to reopen the deal at the next city council meeting in April.
“A Nadrowski administration would never undervalue our City, or be afraid of asking for our resident’s fair share of the prosperity and benefits of any redevelopment project,” she said.
May 10 approaching
In response to Ashe-Nadrowski’s proposal to renegotiate the land sale, the Davis campaign called it “insane” and claimed it would lead to legal trouble with redevelopers. Davis campaign spokesman Phil Swibinski previously said this redevelopment was a “critical” part of the revitalization of MOTBY, and could cost taxpayers if it does not come to fruition.
“If Nadrowski succeeds the developer would sue, Bayonne taxpayers would be forced to pay millions of dollars in legal fees and the city would lose in court, plain and simple,” Swibinski said. “This would set an incredibly dangerous precedent that could open the city up to significant legal liability in other development projects, potentially costing taxpayers millions… Meanwhile, this critical MOTBY property would be tied up in a legal battle caused by Nadrowski instead of contributing to Bayonne’s rebirth by creating new tax revenue and jobs.”
Regardless, Ashe-Nadrowski remains undeterred. Her campaign continues to outline the mayoral candidate and her slate’s platforms as part of the “Solution Sunday” series. Every Sunday from now until Election Day, the Ashe-Nadrowski Campaign said it is going to release concrete solutions to the problems facing Bayonne. Other installments of the “Solution Sunday” series include plans for “Open and Transparent Government” and “Quality of Life.”
Ashe-Nadrowski and her slate will face off against incumbent Mayor James Davis and his slate, as well as Dr. Mitchell Brown, on May 10.
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.