The Bayonne City Council has withdrawn ordinances that would use eminent domain to condemn the land of Bayonne Medical Center while a battle continues between entities to operate the hospital.
The measure is intended to assist BMC Hospital, LLC, the chosen successor to operate Bayonne Medical Center by current operator CarePoint Health, over the landlord and property owner Hudson Regional Hospital, which also wants to operate the facility.
At the same time when CarePoint announced their agreement with BMC Hospital LLC in 2020, the land the hospital sits on was purchased by Hudson Regional Hospital. The Secaucus-based hospital purchased the land from Avery Eisenreich, CEO of nursing home chain Alaris Health, who first bought it from CarePoint in 2019.
Ever since, Hudson Regional Hospital and BMC Hospital, LLC have been fighting to be both the owner and operator of the facility. Amid the back-and-forth, the city has initiated eminent domain proceedings with the help of Hudson County to intervene on behalf of BMC Hospital LLC, a private entity formed by the principals of surgery center chain Surgicore.
Ordinances keep coming back akin to ‘Groundhog Day’
The City Council introduced the ordinances furthering the eminent domain process in April and subsequently held a public hearing on them in May of 2021, but tabled the ordinances that month and again each following month for more than a year pending approval from the state Local Finance Board.
The first ordinance would fund the condemnation of the hospital property. The Hudson County Improvement Authority (HCIA) would finance the condemnation and under the proposed ordinance the city would bond up to $95,000,000 as a reimbursement.
The second ordinance is a lease that would deal with the payment of the bond. If the city takes the title of the hospital property, it would then seek an operator to run the hospital. The amount of the contract would be set up to cover the debt service.
Surprisingly, the first ordinance was shot down by the City Council in May of 2022, when council members in favor of the ordinance seemingly mistakenly followed then-City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski’s lead in voting against it. The second ordinance was postponed until the June meeting with the excuse that the City Council was waiting for the state Local Finance Board to move on it, a step required before the City Council could act.
In June, Ashe-Nadrowski led the City Council in voting down the second of the two ordinances. This came after it was discovered the application for eminent domain had been withdrawn from the Local Finance Board back in December. Davis Administration officials said they were unaware of the decision, which Financial Advisor Michael Hanley of NW Financial Services took the blame for, although Ashe-Nadrowski was not convinced.
New City Council to consider eminent domain again
Using eminent domain for the Bayonne Medical Center property has been largely a dormant issue since then, but it was only a matter of time before it popped back up under the new City Council. The ordinances were voted down in the past were due to opposition by Ashe-Nadrowski and an abstention by then-Second Ward City Councilman Sal Gullace.
Ashe-Nadrowski opposed the ordinances, saying that the conflict is between private entities that the city shouldn’t be involved, since the zoning protects the hospital from being redeveloped into anything else. Gullace abstained because he was on the board of Bayonne Medical Center at the time.
However, neither are on the City Council any longer following the May 2022 non-partisan municipal election. Gullace was booted from Mayor James Davis’ ticket and opted to not run for re-election, while Ashe-Nadrowski unsuccessfully challenged Davis for Mayor.
They were replaced on the City Council by Second Ward City Councilwoman Jacqueline Weimmer and City Councilman At-Large Loyad Booker, who both ran with Davis. Now the Davis Administration has a City Council with more than the four-vote supermajority to pass the ordinances.
At its regular meeting in September, the City Council was set to introduce the two ordinances that would again begin the eminent domain process on the hospital, located between Broadway and Avenue E, and East 29th and East 30th Street. However, they were withdrawn without explanation at the request of City Council President Gary La Pelusa at the September 21 meeting.
La Pelusa said ordinances may be introduced again soon
In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, La Pelusa said the ordinances are being tweaked but could not describe specifics. Previously, Law Director Jay Coffey told BCN the ordinances were identical to the measures weighed by the old City Council and meant to ‘kick start’ the eminent domain process again.
According to La Pelusa, the City Council had questions about the ordinances and other issues that needed to be rectified first before they could be introduced again. However, he was scarce on details.
“There’s a couple questions we need to answer,” La Pelusa said. “They really weren’t ready for us to vote on, so we pulled them and we’re going to have to tighten them up a little bit, get some details that I can’t share completely everything, but it’s just that they were not ready to be voted on.”
While they were withdrawn this month, they may be back on the agenda as soon as October. Remaining tight-lipped as to why it was removed, La Pelusa said the measures will be considered by the City Council again in the future after everything is resolved.
Everyone will “find out soon enough anyway,” La Pelusa said. “It’ll be back on when it’s tightened up a little bit.”
The next City Council meeting is on October 19 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.