Bayonne has withdrawn a resolution and approved another and laid the groundwork for the redevelopment of the ages-old Constable Hook, the largest industrial area in the city.
The city is considering implementing an industrial redevelopment plan. Before that can happen, the city must initiate a study of the over 1,100 acre area on the east side of the city, the first step in the process.
Law Director Jay Coffey previously said the move follows the need to ensure that industrial redevelopment in the area occurs in a coordinated manner. Right now, the city is focusing on industrial redevelopment amid a pause on most major redevelopment pending the completion an impact study that has been set in motion by the City Council.
Coffey stressed coordination is key when it comes to redeveloping the area, whose uses are generally over 100 years old. He said the lack of infrastructure also makes it vital that the redevelopers build with consideration for each other.
The increased coordination sought in Constable Hook comes after an industrial redevelopment by Atlantic Cement was approved despite the objection of International-Matex Tank Terminals (IMTT). According to Coffey, the city has already begun meeting with property owners in the redevelopment area in preparation for the redevelopment study and plan.
The City Council was set to approve the two resolutions to put the process in motion at its September 21 meeting. The first resolution on the agenda would have authorized the preparation of an area in need of redevelopment study for the entire Constable Hook section of Bayonne, pursuant to the Local Housing and Redevelopment Law.
However, the first resolution was withdrawn by the City Council without explanation at the September meeting. After the meeting, City Council President Gary La Pelusa told the Bayonne Community News there were still certain things that needed to be accomplished before the redevelopment study can be conducted.
“There was a couple things in there too that there were some questions about,” La Pelusa said. “They’re preparing the redevelopment study and there’s a lot of moving pieces. It’s the up-and-coming area and a very, very large area… The redevelopment study is going to have to take into affect the infrastructure, where the pipes are, where the electric is laid down, the stormwater drains, all of those things. This is an old area and hasn’t had a lot of extra building on it compared to the rest of the town. So there’s a lot more things that need to be done before you can go and do that redevelopment study.”
The City Council did, however, approve the second resolution on the agenda related to the industrial redevelopment of Constable Hook.
That resolution authorizes a request for proposals for “Professional Planning and Engineering Services for Master Plan updates including but not limited to Sustainability and Resilience Elements, Infrastructure Planning and Professional Planning Services for preparation of an area in need of redevelopment and the Redevelopment Plans including but not limited to the Constable Hook Section of the City of Bayonne pursuant to the Local Housing and Redevelopment Law.”
Officials explain that Master Plan to be updated
During the September 21 meeting, former city employee and outspoken resident Gail Godesky asked why the city was changing the city’s Master Plan as part of the resolution. She questioned: “Why are we changing it? Because it doesn’t fit with what’s taking place in the city right now?’
Coffey explained it was to help with industrial redevelopment at Constable Hook. He said the resolution aims to find professionals to provide the city with an up-to-date map of the area that will be utilized by the redevelopment study when that moves forward.
“There’s going to be some tremendous redevelopment there. As we said, that’s the biggest industrial area left in the City of Bayonne,” Coffey said. “You have IMTT, Exxon, and several other entities. The golf course is down on that end. So we don’t have the map really of what’s down there. So we need to come up with a comprehensive document that these developers, as they develop problems with the property owners, actually will have movement by which they can develop right now. That’s the Wild, Wild West. Nobody has looked at that area of town in 100 years.”
Godesky argued that there were maps of the whole city in the old Urban Enterprise Zone office and at IMTT. Coffey said those maps don’t mark everything needed by the city.
“That’s a great map,” Coffey said sarcastically. “Tell me where all the infrastructure is, tell me where all the streets are, the railroad crossings, the environmental problems, the lot lines for each particular lot. Some of the lots haven’t been changed or they’ve been changed and haven’t been acknowledged in maybe 75 years. There are lots of issues down there that you just can’t say, well there’s a map on the wall.”
Godesky was adamant the city could get the information from IMTT or Exxon. Coffey said it was a fact that the city could not do that: “These properties have been operated and just run dry by corporation after corporation. IMTT has been in the same hands, in the same family for years and years, breaking up pieces of property left and right… No zoning, they just do what they wanted down there.”
After that, Godesky then asked if the redevelopment would affect the current largest taxpayer in the city IMTT. Coffey clarified that the city is not redesigning anything, only outlining how redevelopers can build in the area.
“We’re providing an overview as to what should or can go down there,” Coffey said. “These developers are going to come to the city with proposals. Redevelopment plans are going to have to be drawn up. But you have to have an operating document to work off of. And that 200 and change acres down there is the land of the unknown… If they developer down there, it’s going to have an impact, either it may be a great economic impact or else have a pejorative impact with our environmentals. There are no infrastructure improvements that are municipal.”
‘A living, breathing document’
According to Coffey, the Master Plan is bound to change again in the future.
“This is a living, breathing document that will change over the next five to 10 to 15 years,” Coffey said. “We don’t have the wherewithal internally just to do this. We need to go out and get professionals to deal with this on an intensive basis and provide us with guidance.”
La Pelusa added: “Then in the future, we’ll be able to update the Master Plan with the things we found in the program.”
Former City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski also addressed that resolution, asking about the wording that states the changes to the Master Plan would include but not be limited to Constable Hook. The September meeting was the first she had spoken at since the May municipal election when she unsuccessfully challenged Mayor James Davis for his office, although she was present at the August meeting.
“So this basically says, you can go anywhere in the city,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “You can come do right here, you can come down my block down on 5th Street because you’re leaving that open here. So if you really mean it to be just Constable Hook, then can we not just say that? Because it seems a little not so transparent. You’re saying one thing here at a meeting, you just told the public it’s all about Constable Hook, but it reads to say anywhere in the city.”
She continued: “When we did the Master Plan, we had meetings last time and the public was allowed to come and input what they thought. Are we going to do that?” Coffey addressed her questions, first stating that public input is “built into the process. That’s part of the process.”
In regards to the resolution not limiting the scope of the changes in the Master Plan to Constable Hook, Coffey noted: “If there’s development done at Constable Hook, it’s going to impact the surrounding areas.” Ashe-Nadrowski acknowledged that, but took issues with how the resolution would allow changes to the Master Plan anywhere in the city as a result.
“By this, you can say ‘I’m going to go and change 1st Street’ because this resolution is allowing you to do that the way it’s written,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. Coffey confirmed that was the case: “Correct.”
He continued: “The purpose of it is, if there is development on the east side impacts the west side. And it could, because of storm water and combined sewer overflows or separations. You’d have to redo that aspect of the Master Plan also. So if this has a pejorative impact on the rest of the town, you’ll have to redesign the rest of the town.”
“Yeah, but it could be anything,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “CasChem, we can rezone that to be warehousing or 75 stories, not that it’s impacted there… It would give you the power to do that. You could make any changes you want.”
“The answer in a vacuum is yes,” Coffey said. “In a vacuum chamber, it’s yes because you don’t know what they’re going to find over time there. You don’t know what the experts are going to come up with. You don’t know what their analysis is going to lead to.”
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