In the continuing saga over the Bhalla administration’s proposed municipal complex, the Hoboken City Council has voted to pass a resolution asking the Hudson County Improvement Authority to acquire the space that they want for it.
The resolution asks the HCIA, which handles trash and recycling, as well as bonding, to acquire the Poggi Press property at 1501 Adams St., either by direct purchase or through eminent domain, and lease it to the city so that they can build their complex.
Since early this year, Mayor Ravi Bhalla has proposed a $192 million municipal complex on the northwest end of the city that would include public safety departments, city offices and other amenities.
The city has sought to acquire the Poggi Press property for their project, but has been met with opposition by its owner, Charlie Poggi, saying that he wants to redevelop the property himself.
The council voted earlier this year to acquire the property or condemn it via eminent domain, but a $40 million bond ordinance to buy the property got stalled in the council and was eventually removed entirely.
A bond ordinance needed six votes out of nine to be adopted, but it was introduced 5-4 during first reading, with Council members Michael DeFusco, Tiffanie Fisher, Ruben Ramos and Jen Giattino voting no.
The Jersey Journal reported in May that Hoboken officials were in talks with the HCIA to discuss their financing programs. Mayor Bhalla and his administration has also sought to blame the opposing council members for stalling on their proposal.
Appearing before the council himself, Poggi criticized the Bhalla administration for reaching out to the HCIA as a way of getting around the council and asked them to oppose the resolution.
“I hope the officials at the HCIA realize that they are being asked to support the abuse of government authority, namely, the involuntary seizure or taking of my property via eminent domain, which is one of the most devastating weapons a government can use against its citizens,” he said.
He later said that he tried to offer the city two redevelopment proposals, but was dismissed instead. “I want to reassure the council that I will do as I said over the past two years that I will continue to bargain in good faith, but you can’t keep coming at me with tactics like HCIA.”
“I want you to understand that I will continue to protect my constitutional right as a property owner and fight for my justice,” he said.
Before the council voted on the resolution, Ramos, who has spoken against the municipal complex, said that Poggi is trying to work with the city and implored the administration and the council to talk with the property owners in the area “and see what we can come up with for a dynamic space.”
“I think our commitment is for the DPW,” he said. “That’s my commitment there, but not my commitment through eminent domain to try and accomplish that goal.”
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher also criticized the administration for attempting a workaround because the bond ordinance stalled.
“My concern from the very beginning is that Hoboken’s interests weren’t the highest priority in this process,” she said. “The neighboring developer has a higher priority; the mayor up on the hill has a higher priority, and I think there’s an opportunity to get in a room and if you put the interests of Hoboken first, there are some real solutions here.”
Council Vice President Emily Jabbour, who had voted for the eminent domain ordinance and the bond ordinance before, had said that she asked Poggi in an email back in March “if you’re willing to sell to a real estate developer, why aren’t you willing to sell to the city of Hoboken?”
Jabbour contended that Poggi being assured a “fair price” as part of the eminent domain procedures makes whoever he sells the property to as irrelevant. She also contended that the Monarch settlement agreement is requiring the city look into a new DPW garage, and that not thinking about the use of the site would be “irresponsible.”
Councilman Phil Cohen, who also voted for the two previous ordinances, argued that it’s in their “best interest of the whole city to move forward [from] the Monarch settlement.”
“I’m in favor of it, and I think that it is consistent with what this council has the administration to do,” he said over the phone.
The resolution was approved 5-3-1, with Ramos, Fisher and Councilman Michael DeFusco voting no, and Councilwoman Jen Giattino absent from the meeting that night.
“The city agrees with Mr. Poggi that good faith negotiations should and will continue,” said Hoboken spokeswoman Marilyn Baer. “True to our obligation to our residents, we must also simultaneously explore any and all options, including the HCIA, to potentially move forward with the relocation of the DPW garage.”
The Hudson County Improvement Authority did not respond for comment on the resolution.