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Bayonne Planning Board approves major subdivision of controversial MOTBY site

Mayoral candidates have butted heads over the topic as the May 10 municipal election approaches

An architectural mock-up of Building A as seen from Parkside Street, part of Phase One of the redevelopment.

The saga continues regarding a redevelopment at the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY) part of the “Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor.”

Lot subdivided into three

The Bayonne Planning Board has approved a major subdivision of a large lot relating to the aforementioned MOTBY project at its April 12 meeting. The redeveloper, Bayonne Partners Urban Renewal, LLC is proposing five residential buildings with a total of 1,250 multi-family dwelling units, 10,000 square feet of retail space, two parking structures, a park, and other amenities. However, only the subdivision of the property was approved by the board due to time constraints.

The board was about to adjourn, with the meeting passing the four hour mark at 10 p.m. after previously hearing a number of other items on the agenda. In order to “get things moving,” attorney for the applicant Glenn Kienz asked the board to break the application up and hear part of it at the meeting before adjourning for the night. While the application originally consisted of the entire final major site plan, he asked for just the final major subdivision to be approved.

“This application can be divided up in a series of steps,” Kienz said, promising the subdivision part of the application presentation would only take three minutes. “It would enable us to continue forward.”

According to Kienz, the applicant would be back before the board for final site plan review at the next available meeting. Chairwoman Karen Fiermonte polled the board as to if it wanted to quickly hear the subdivision, even though the board normally doesn’t hear new business after 9 p.m. However, the commissioners were willing to hear the application this time, well past 10 p.m.

The property was subdivided into three lots.

Three lots equals three phases

Kienz examined project engineer Josh Klein regarding the subdivision. According to Klein, the existing lot will be subdivided into three lots to accommodate future improvements. This coincides with the project being constructed in three phases.

The current size of the property is 539,277 square feet. From west to east, the first lot of the new lots is 200,013 square feet, the second lot is 194,715 square feet, and the third lot is 144,549 square feet. Klein said the lots are conforming to the redevelopment plan, meaning they require no variances to subdivide the lot.

The city’s consulting engineer Andrew Raichle said that this type of subdivision and phasing was commonplace among the redevelopments at the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY), including for nearby sites such as for the KRE Group at the nearby Bay 151.

Remainder of application to be heard in May

Despite a full audience of members from local labor unions, no one spoke during the public comment portion of the hearing for the subdivision, but did speak on other agenda items. In his closing statement, Kienz said the applicant will perfect the rest of the application in preparation for the next meeting.

The board voted unanimously to approve the subdivision. Now the original lot is subdivided into three lots, but the redeveloper still needs to have the rest of their plans approved before constructing anything.

The remainder of the application, including final site plan review, was carried to the next meeting on May 10. And the applicant will not have to give public notice again ahead of that meeting.

While Kienz sought a sooner date on behalf of the applicant via a special meeting, the only date possible for that was later than the regular May meeting, on May 23. At that point, he agreed to earlier date, which coincides with the May 10 municipal election in Bayonne.

An aerial architectural drawing of the entire plans for the site.

Municipal election issue?

Ahead of the municipal election, City Council President and mayoral candidate Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, who is also a commissioner on the Planning Board, has been criticizing the redevelopment deal regarding the land of the property.

Bayonne Partners Urban Renewal is a subsidiary of Boraie Development, of which Wasseem Boraie is the Vice President. Ashe-Nadrowski first criticized the deal between the Boraie subsidiary and the city following Politico reporting that Boraie had donated $25,000 to the now-defunct Government for the People political action committee (PAC) to re-elect Mayor James Davis for a third term.

Ashe-Nadrowski criticized the deal, noting the land was probably worth $60 million more than it was when the the agreement was signed in 2015 and that Davis was close with the redeveloper. However, she said she was still unsure which way she would vote, and didn’t mind if the Boraie subsidiary redeveloped the lot but that they “needed to pay their fair share.”

The Davis campaign countered that the project is a key part of 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, and that the “stunt” would lead to legal trouble for the city.

An architectural drawing of Building D as seen from Center Street.

Ashe-Nadrowski targets MOTBY redevelopment deal

Following that back-and-forth with the Davis campaign, Ashe-Nadrowski announced that she would draft the necessary resolutions and ordinances to reopen negotiations for the land. She said the land is now worth nearly $95 million as opposed to roughly $35 million per the agreement.

Responding to the Davis campaign’s previous assertions that meddling with this redevelopment would jeopardize the overall revitalization at MOTBY, Ashe-Nadrowski countered that the area is already bustling with construction and other activities and that the redeveloper should pay the current value of the land.

In response to Ashe-Nadrowski’s proposal, the Davis campaign called it “insane” and claimed it would lead to legal trouble with redevelopers. Davis campaign spokesperson Phil Swibinski said this redevelopment was a “critical” part of the revitalization of MOTBY, and could cost taxpayers if it does not come to fruition.

While Davis has put a pause on redevelopment, he said MOTBY was excluded from this due the revenue and jobs the redevelopment there brings the city.

Recently, Ashe-Nadrowski held a virtual press conference announcing that she would be introducing two resolutions and one ordinance at the April 20 council meeting to nullify the redevelopment agreement, re-list the property for sale through the Request for Proposals (RFP) process, and to rescind the payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement. To which, the Davis campaign was mum.

The planning board’s affirmative action on part of the application seem to allow Ashe-Nadrowski an opening regarding her proposals at the April council meeting. And she even voted to approve the subdivision of the land.

What Building B would look like as seen from Parkside Street.

Proposed plans for site

Per the plans, the redeveloper is seeking to construct five multi-family residential buildings on the site, with 1,250 units consisting of a mix of studio, one, two, and three-bedroom units. One of the buildings would contain 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. There would be a total of 788 off-street parking spaces within two parking structures and approximately 97 spaces in surface parking lots.

The site is currently vacant land. Goldsborough Drive is to the south, although it is referred to as Center Street in the architectural plans, and Baker Company Street is to the west. To the north and east is land under redevelopment, and across Baker Company Street is the Club at Bayonne Bay Apartments, with many still under construction.

Throughout construction of this project, the redeveloper would extend Memorial Boulevard along the north of the entire property. And Constitution Avenue would be extended, but once it crosses over Baker Company Street, it would be known as Parkside Street.

A new street between the buildings in Lots 1 and 2 would run from Memorial Boulevard to Center Street, referred to in the plans as L Street. Another street similar to this would run from Memorial Boulevard but stop at Parkside Street terminating in front of the park, referred to as X Street in the plans.

A view of what would be called Building E as seen from Center Street.

Phase One

The first phase of construction calls for two buildings and a parking structure.

The first building, referred to as Building A, is a 12-story residential tower with 250 units. It would be located between Memorial Boulevard and Parkside Street, and Baker Company Street and L Street.

The parking structure would have four stories of parking and 268 spaces, and surface parking would be constructed too. It would also be constructed in the lot between those streets and behind Building A, and would be surrounded by surface parking spaces. Between Bulding A and Building D, Parkside Street would have on-street parking.

The other is Building D, a 10-story residential with 274 units. It would be located between Parkside Street and Center Street, and Baker Company Street and L Street.

In addition, the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway to the south would be constructed, as well as necessary roadways, sidewalks, and utilities, among other things.

An architectural rendering of Building C as seen from Parkside Street.

Phases Two and Three

The second phase of the plans propose two more buildings, one residential and one mixed-use residential and commercial.

Phase Two calls for a 12-story building with 267 units known as Building B. It would be located between Memorial Avenue and Parkside Street, and L Street and X Street.

The second phase also proposes a five-story building with 150 units and 10,000 square feet of retail space. Known as Building E, this would be located between Parkside Street and Center Street, and L Street and the proposed park.

Phase Three proposes a 16-story residential with 309 units known as Building C. This would be located between Memorial Boulevard and Parkside Street, and X Street and the other land to the east.

A four-story parking structure with 232 spaces would be constructed in the lot between those streets and behind Building C. Additional surface parking, and more roadways and sidewalks, as well as other essential infrastructure would be constructed during these phases.

Unique to the third phase would be the completion of a landscaped park. It would be located between Building C and Center Street, and Building E and the other land to the east.

The Bayonne City Council is set to meet next on Wednesday, April 20 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.

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.

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