Mayor James Davis is vowing to stop City Council President and mayoral candidate Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski from voiding the city’s sale agreement on a major development project at the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY).
According to Davis, the incumbent councilmen running on his slate all plan to vote against Ashe-Nadrowski’s resolution to dissolve the contract at the April City Council meeting. This includes First Ward City Councilman Neil Carroll, City Councilman At-Large Juan Perez, and Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa.
Davis added that city redevelopment attorneys have reviewed the matter and have produced a legal opinion memo stating that the redeveloper, Bayonne Partners Urban Renewal, LLC, is not in breach of its contract with the city. According to Davis, he said this would mean Ashe-Nadrowski’s actions to cancel the project’s financial and redevelopment agreements would actually constitute breach of contract by the city.
The redevelopment deal has become a point of controversy between the two candidates ahead of the May 10 municipal election.
Davis called Ashe-Nadrowski’s plan “bizarre” and said it would cost Bayonne taxpayers millions of dollars by breaching a contract that she previously voted in favor of. According to Davis, her campaign manager Joe DeMarco personally negotiated the deal when he worked for city government. DeMarco is Davis’ former campaign manager, and has also served as Business Administrator and Special Redevelopment Counsel under his administration.
“I will not stand by and let Sharon Nadrowski cost each and every Bayonne taxpayer thousands of dollars to further her political agenda,” said Davis. “Let’s be perfectly clear here: if the city tries to exit this contract we will get sued and we will lose, but even more dangerously it would create a precedent for other developers to sue. Bayonne taxpayers would be forced to pay thousands of dollars more every year to pay for this costly mistake by Nadrowski, and I will never let that happen. Not over my dead body!”
Davis takes aim at Ashe-Nadrowski claims
Ashe-Nadrowski claims that the agreement between Bayonne Partners Urban Renewal and the city should be null and void because the agreement stated closing needed to occur by Nov. 3, 2021.
According to the Davis, this clause can only be triggered if the city and state meet certain conditions that must be met prior to the sale, including providing a highway access permit, an NJDEP waterfront development permit and the extension of certain utility improvements to the site. Without those conditions being met, Davis said the buyer was under no obligation to close the sale by the Nov. 3, 2021 date.
The city has faced delays in meeting those obligations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the state has yet to supply the necessary permits, which Davis said is out of the city’s control. He intends to complete these conditions as soon as possible to allow this project to begin.
Ashe-Nadrowski also claims that the payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) granted was for a project with a maximum of 850 residential units, and that the current project now has 1,250 residential units.
According to Davis, the redevelopment agreement was amended in 2017 to increase the unit count from 850 to 1,250. He added that the city will receive more revenue due to this change, because the PILOT payment is based in part on the number of units at the site. He said that the PILOT agreement is still “completely valid and enforceable,” and reiterated that Ashe-Nadrowski had voted for the amendment to the plan.
“Sharon Nadrowski can’t even keep her own destructive political stunt straight, as this latest attempt to defraud Bayonne taxpayers is now the third version of it she has expressed,” said Davis campaign spokesman Phil Swibinski. “First she said the developer only had an ‘option’ to buy the land, which was proven to be false. Then she said she wanted to ‘renegotiate’ the already-settled contract, and now she lies again and says it’s ‘null and void’ when in reality it is active and legally enforceable. If Nadrowski’s million dollar plus threat to Bayonne taxpayers wasn’t so real it would almost be comical. The bottom line is that Mayor Davis and his team are going to defeat Nadrowski’s ridiculous resolution, save Bayonne taxpayers millions of dollars and prove that Nadrowski is the wrong choice for mayor.”
Ashe-Nadrowski moving on MOTBY redevelopment
The deal at the center of discussion is between the city and Bayonne Partners Urban Renewal, 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 a Politico report that Boraie had donated $25,000 to the now-defunct Government for the People political action committee (PAC) to re-elect Davis for a third term.
Ashe-Nadrowski criticized the deal, noting the land was probably now worth $60 million more than when 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.
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. 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.
Candidates clash over project throughout April
Recently, Ashe-Nadrowski held a virtual press conference announcing that she would be introducing two resolutions and one ordinance at the April council meeting to nullify the redevelopment agreement, re-list the property for sale through the Request for Proposals (RFP) process, and to rescind the PILOT agreement. To which, the Davis campaign was mum until now.
And while the Planning Board was set to hear final site plan review for the site on April 12, due to time constraints only the major subdivision was approved with the rest of the application set to be heard on May 10. This seemingly provided Ashe-Nadrowski with an opening to move to introduce the items at the April 13 caucus council meeting and the April 20 regular council meeting.
While Second Ward City Councilman Sal Gullace seconded the resolutions and ordinance, they now face stated opposition from Carroll, Perez, and La Pelusa. Unless anything changes, the agenda items may be dead in the water with 3 of the 5 council members voting against it.
Things will plan out at the next Bayonne City Council 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.
The Ashe-Nadrowski campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment following the Davis campaign’s press release.
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.