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Bayonne plans two new parking lots under Bayonne Bridge

The ordinance before the city council would authorize an agreement with PANYNJ for the project

The area underneath the Bayonne Bridge between West 3rd Street and Juliette Street as seen from West 3rd Street, via Google Maps.

An ordinance before the Bayonne City Council would authorize an agreement with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for two parking lots underneath the Bayonne Bridge. If approved, the lots could help alleviate the parking shortage that plagues the city.

The ordinance was added on to the council’s agenda at the April 13 caucus meeting of the Bayonne City Council. Per the council’s policy, Law Director Jay Coffey explained the purpose of the add-on ordinance.

According to Coffey, the agreement was just received by the city through Department of Public Works Director Tom Cotter from the PANYNJ on April 13.

Coffey said the license agreement would allow the city to lease the land underneath the Bayonne Bridge in order to construct, maintain, and operate two municipal surface parking lots. They would be located under the Bayonne Bridge between West 3rd Street and Juliette Street, and another between West 4th Street and Margaret Street.

According to Coffey, the city will pay an annual $1 fee for each of the public parking lots.

Council spars over add-on items again

In response to the add-on, City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski asked if the agreement was available to which Coffey said it was. He left the dais briefly to retrieve the proposed lease agreement for the council.

Ashe-Nadrowski questioned what the terms are and wanted to review the agreement. This led to a pointed, yet calm, exchange between her and Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa.

“That says something about improvements though,” La Pelusa said. “Is that what we’re looking at?”

“It’s a lease agreement, [Coffey] is going to get what the terms are… Last time, Marist was an agreement too and we didn’t know what it was, remember?,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “At the caucus we should have the supporting documents.”

“We talked about that,” La Pelusa said. “If it’s a simple thing and the director is here, we always said the director could guide us along with that. If it’s not a big cost item, I don’t have a problem with it.”

“It’s about a contract,” Ashe-Nadrowski said, underscoring the importance of the agreement.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” La Pelusa said, standing his ground that if Coffey could explain it, he would be okay adding it to the agenda.

“You pick and chose,” Ashe-Nadrowski said, hitting La Pelusa over what she perceived as flip-flopping on what items needed to be reviewed and what didn’t before acting on them.

“I’m not picking and choosing,” La Pelusa said, stating the council could add the ordinance to the agenda and review the documents before the council votes to introduce it at the regular council meeting.

“I agree we should look at it,” Ashe-Nadrowski said, countering again that the council should review the agreement before even adding it onto the agenda at the caucus meeting.

Ashe-Nadrowski seeks time to review agreement

Coffey eventually returned with the 22-page license agreement provided for council’s comment and review by PANYNJ. However, Ashe-Nadrowski was already was looking to table the introduction of the ordinance to review the contract before adding it onto the agenda.

“I would rather table this,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “I don’t have the time, and I don’t think every council person has the time to read a 22-page document right now to understand what we’re introducing.”

Perez asked Coffey to go through the gist of the 22 pages. In response, Coffey said: “The Port Authority is providing us with the ability to have parking underneath the Bayonne Bridge at Margaret Street and 4th and Juliette and 3rd. They charged us only a dollar, so its really two governmental agencies agreeing allow for us to use the property for our best uses. Because they’re not using.”

Responding to questions by Ashe-Nadrowski, Coffey said that the city was responsible for the repairs, insurance, and other items regarding the parking lots.

“We’re responsible for all of that,” Coffey said. “It’s going to be our parking lots. We’re going operate them.”

Coffey added that if the terms of the agreement were un-acceptable, the council could table it and add it onto the May agenda.

Council adds ordinance to agenda

First Ward City Councilman Neil Carroll moved to add it on to the May agenda at the caucus meeting. La Pelusa was okay with it, seconding it.

“As long as we get the paper work and enough time to review, I would be okay,” La Pelusa said. “It doesn’t sound like a big money item.”

City Councilman At-Large Juan Perez asked if there was any downside to the  parking lot, to which Coffey said the city would be liable for whatever happens there.

“Any operation that we have is a liability for anything that happens there,” Coffey said.

“Parking is a big benefit,” La Pelusa said. “Parking is the benefit here,” Coffey added.

“Parking is at a premium,” Perez said, noting he was on board with adding the item on at the caucus meeting. Perez, La Pelusa, and Carroll are running on a slate with Mayor James Davis in the upcoming May 10 municipal election against mayoral candidate Ashe-Nadrowski and her slate, among other independent candidates.

Ashe-Nadrowski agreed that parking was problem, but didn’t see the need to rush to add the item onto the agenda for introduction before the council could read the agreement.

‘Why the rush?’

“We’ve been trying to get this fixed since the bridge has been finished,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “I just didn’t want to rush without knowing the terms. We’ve been waiting on this for five years now. I didn’t think waiting another month to make sure of what it said would be a big detriment.”

Coffey said that PANYNJ is looking to see the city advance the project: “From the Port Authority’s point of view, if we could have something showing we are moving forward this, that’s important for them. They also have to approve this once we approve the agreement terms.”

“I have a lot of reading,” Carroll said. He also alleged that Ashe-Nadrowski didn’t provide the paperwork for resolutions and an ordinance she introduced regarding a controversial redevelopment at the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY).

However, Ashe-Nadrowski answered that City Clerk Madelene Medina had all of the documents prior to the meeting. Those were also not an add-on item and appeared on the regular agenda for the caucus meeting. Additionally, the resolutions and ordinance were also provided to the press after Ashe-Nadrowski’s virtual press conference on the matter earlier this month. Medina confirmed that she had all the paperwork and added she would email the items to everyone by the following morning of April 14.

The parking lot ordinance will be up for introduction at the next Bayonne City Council regular meeting on 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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