End of an era
Redevelopment agency to be dissolved
by By Al Sullivan
Reporter senior staff writer
Jun 19, 2013 | 2771 views | 0 0 comments | 90 90 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CITY TO TAKE OVER – If the state approves, the city will dissolve the BLRA and take over its land ownership.
CITY TO TAKE OVER – If the state approves, the city will dissolve the BLRA and take over its land ownership.
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The Bayonne City Council is expected to take the next step at its June 19 meeting to abolish the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA), putting an end to the dream of what some called “a new Hoboken.”

The BLRA’s primary duty was to oversee the development of the former Military Ocean Terminal (MOTBY). But since the city sold most of the 432-acre site to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and other entities over the last years, the BLRA has largely lost its purpose.

The council will seek approval from the state Board of Local Finance to absolve some of the BLRA’s debt. Pending state approval, the council is also poised to pass a $75 million bond.

This ends a nearly 20-year proposed project to construct a small city of residential and other high-end development on the site. The property will largely be used to support container freight operations.

City Attorney Charles D’Amico said the timetable for dissolving the BLRA will depend on approval by the state.

“Otherwise, it will take the same time as a regular ordinance,” he said. “The ordinance will be introduced, and there will be a public hearing.”

The Military Ocean Terminal or, as it has been renamed, the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor is a stretch of land extending from the eastern side of Bayonne like a finger, pointing straight at New York Harbor.

The 430-acre Military Ocean Terminal was deeded to the BLRA in December 2002 after the military base was closed there, leaving local officials to find a way to develop it into a profitable venture for the region.

Millions of federal dollars went into the site for stabilization and preparation for residential and commercial development. Local dollars went into the site as well as the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority sought to bring substandard sewerage and water systems up to code. Electrical systems, communication systems, and new roadways also saw massive investment during a decade-long battle to prepare the site for construction. But only one project got off the ground on the site and remains the only remnant of the old vision that some claimed would become the next Hoboken, including tall office towers near the tip of the Peninsula that would rival the riverfront development in Jersey City.

Gambling on what officials thought was a sure thing, the city—using a complicated arrangement with the BLRA—borrowed money against future land sales to help fill in an annual municipal budget gap. Though some saw signs of a faltering economy as early as mid-2006, the development dream could not survive the collapse of the real-estate market in late 2008, which also led to squabbles among proposed developers, some of whom scrambled to convert for-sale units to rental units.

Faced with serious economic issues, the BLRA voted in mid 2010 to sell 130 acres of the MOTBY’s development districts to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for $235 million to be paid in increments over 20 years with the largest payments coming during the first three years.

One of the development districts was sold for roll-off freight prior to that sale, and the city in dissolving the BLRA takes possession of the remaining two development districts for possible future development.

Although there are some legal issues regarding these two districts, some people have speculated that the sites might be designated for a hotel that could accommodate the cruise operations at Port Liberty. Other possible uses could include the development of more shopping areas.

Although the city will absorb some of the BLRA’s outstanding debt, city officials say the city would have been responsible for the debt even if the BLRA remained.

Other development sites

The city council is also expected to ask the Bayonne Planning Board to designate two more sections of the city as possible areas in need of redevelopment, clearing the way for several new residential projects. The first is a former gas station near the corner of 14th Street and Avenue C, said City Planner John Fussa.

This site is relatively near the 8th Street station of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail Line and is within an area that the state Department of Transportation has been looking at as a possible overlay zone for a Transit Village area that would allow for transit-oriented business development.

The second site—used as a plumbing supply warehouse—on Avenue E near 22nd Street was recently sold. The property may be considered for residential development to complement the nearby Hudson Bergen Light Rail station.

“This could hopefully continue some of the development that we’re currently seeing at the Former Maidenform site,” Fussa said.

Avenue E has become a focus of transportation-related residential-development proposals. One residential unit near the 45th Street station is nearly complete. Last month, the city council moved to seek a redevelopment designation for the parking lots near the 34th Street station.

All these projects, city officials said, will seek to capitalize on the ability of residents in these facilities to access public transportation to New York and other areas.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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