Bayonne has rejected a payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement with a redeveloper for a rundown gas station just beyond the Route 440 overpass that runs across Broadway near Bergen Point.
The Bayonne City Council voted 3-2 against the ordinance, with First Ward City Councilman Neil Carroll, Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa, and City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski voting against it. Second Ward City Councilman Sal Gullace and City Councilman At-Large Juan Perez voted in favor.
This was another unusual circumstance at the meeting on top of the council voting down one hospital eminent domain ordinance, considering this PILOT was one of the financial agreements the council had been postponing month after month. The postponements came in the wake of Mayor James Davis’s call for a pause on most major redevelopment and for supporting PILOT agreements to be voted down as part the pause. However, the council opted to second Ashe-Nadrowski’s motion and unanimously voted to postpone the then-seven financial agreements instead back in February.
In March, the council approved one PILOT agreement that had postponed the month prior for the adaptive reuse of the former School of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at 25 East 25th Street school as a residential building. The council voted 3-2 in favor of the PILOT, with Carroll and La Pelusa in opposition.
As for the rest of the financial agreements, the council voted 4-1 to postpone them, with Ashe-Nadrowski voting against the motion this time, stating the council has “city business to do.” The council voted unanimously again to postpone them in April, with Ashe-Nadrowski reiterating her opposition again come May.
No PILOT to help old redevelop gas station
However, his time around, the council opened up one ordinance up for a hearing instead of postponement, specifically the ordinance supporting a PILOT to redevelop the former Delta Gas Station at 218-222 Broadway. During the hearing, attorney John J. Smith for the redeveloper 218-222 Broadway Urban Renewal, LLC appealed to the council. Smith said he was speaking on behalf of the owner, his mother.
“She asked me to appear on her behalf to tell you a few things about the property,” Smith said. “She said she would be here but she has failing health and mobility problems.”
According to Smith, he and his mother have lived in Bayonne their whole lives.
“She raised her family here like myself,” Smith said. “I’m a lifetime resident and maintain a law practice here in Bayonne. My mom is 86 years old and is looking for a favorable vote because the entire project is contingent on this financing agreement being approved. The property itself was purchased back in the 70s, I think I was in grammar school, by my father. He ran it until his untimely death in 1995. We also lived in the First Ward during that time. Since his death, we’ve maintained it as a rental property to subsidize my mom’s income. Prior to that, when my dad ran it, it was a successful business.”
Since then, Smith acknowledged the business occupying gone downhill in aesthetics. He said the proposed redevelopment would change the neighborhood for the better.
Givebacks to the surrounding community
“Although it was a gas station, it did have some aesthetic appeal,” Smith said. “However, presently that’s gone to a worse condition. It’s an obsolete building. You can’t compete as this type of business. So the proposed project before you has a lot of merit. You’re going to lose a dilapidated unsightly building in place of a property that would be the gateway to downtown Bayonne. It’s the first thing you see when you travel south. And it’s the last thing you see when you’re going to leave downtown. A beautiful structure there will set the tone for the entire neighborhood being south of the underpass. Not having this approval would jeopardize this plan.”
The project would be a six-story building with 40 units. Smith touted the return of on-street parking spaces on adjacent streets currently occupied by curb cuts for the gas station.
“I don’t know how many other projects are like this but I can’t think of any giving back as many parking spaces to the community,” Smith said. “This property is bordered by Cottage and Evergreen streets. And of course Broadway. I think that gives back at least 12 parking spaces since 90 percent of the property is a driveway, it’s not needed for the proposed project. This will certainly prove to be beneficial to the neighborhood. Also, my mother is taking a substantial financial hit with the environmental cleanup. That’s out of pocket for her. So we don’t want this to go unrecognized or unrewarded. We seek your approval for this much-needed advancement for our city, having a beautiful landscape building a block away from the Light Rail to certainly enhance the neighborhood. We’ve lived here, we love Bayonne, we’re not going anywhere. This is a good project for the city and something that will invigorate the area, and would be a benefit to the city.”
However, Smith’s pleas fell on deaf ears. During the vote, Carroll, La Pelusa, and Ashe-Nadrowski voted against the PILOT, but only La Pelusa explained his vote.
“This council said we would not do more than 15 years,” La Pelusa. “I’m sticking to my guns. I voted no on the other ones that were 20 years.”
Other financial agreements postponed
The council also voted again to postpone four financial agreements, with Ashe-Nadrowski also voting against them once again.
The first was for a reimbursement agreement with 6 Commerce Street Urban Renewal, LLC for sewer and water upgrades in the area. The second ordinance for a reimbursement agreement for similar sewer and water upgrades between the city and 7 Hook Road Urban Renewal, LLC.
The third ordinance would authorize a PILOT agreement between the city and Ave E Dev Mile High AMS Urban Renewal, LLC. The financial agreement would support a proposed 18-story high rise that is part of the next phase of the Silk Lofts redevelopment known as Silk Lofts East at 140 Avenue E.
Another one of the ordinances would authorize a separate PILOT between the city and AMS Urban Renewal for a six-story building proposed at 57-163 Avenue E known as Silk Lofts West.
Two later ordinances were on the agenda for separate financial agreements with 6 Commerce Street Urban Renewal, LLC and 7 Hook Road Urban Renewal, LLC. However, City Clerk Madelene Medina said they were removed from the agenda at the May meeting.
The Bayonne City Council will meet next on June 15 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.
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