The North Bergen Planning Board unanimously approved the Riverview development on Thursday, April 11 during a special meeting. The vote came after a six-year long battle between the Bergen Ridge Home Owners Association and Riverview Development LLC. of Brooklyn. In the past, neighbors in the Bergen Ridge development thought the site should be a recreational park.
“It was a good decision and the township has zoned the property for high rise residential use,” said the developer’s attorney, Jeffrey Zenn, last week.
The development will have 233 units of housing at 8200-8516 River Road. They will be in the form of three 11-story buildings including two-story garages. Out of the 517 parking spaces, 50 will be designated for the township and 11 are reserved for people visiting the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.
Members of the Planning Board were asked by their attorney John Dineen to address any issues or concerns they had about the project. However none of the members addressed any issues at this meeting, and were ready to make a final decision.
“We have listened to a lot of testimony over six years,” said Board Chairman Robert Baselice.
“It’s a beautiful building and will enhance the area,” said board member Patricia Bartoli.
Board member Steven Somick mentioned that the development will contribute to the construction of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.
The developers still have to get a waterfront permit.
“They had a chance to express themselves and found the most indirect, uncreative way of expressing themselves,” said resident Peggy Wong. “I was very disappointed in [the Planning Board]. I don’t think it was a very balanced, even discussion.”
“I think this is a cop out on the part of the Planning Board to say that they don’t have to pay attention to FEMA, the [Department of Environmental Protection] DEP, the requirements for the walkway for the building, for traffic, that all of that is out of their hands,” said president of the Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy Helen Manogue. “If I lived in one of the buildings along the waterfront, I’d be very, very concerned that the municipality is not showing enough sensibility to the FEMA requirements.”
Objections and road blocks
While the development was approved by the Planning Board, it does need to overcome some hurdles before its completion.
“We don’t believe that they can build the project as proposed,” Lamb said, because of the new FEMA Advisory Base Flood Elevations implemented after the impact of Hurricane Sandy. “They also need a waterfront development permit which the DEP has denied.”
“Unfortunately this is just another step in the process,” said Zenn. “We have a pending claim to have the waterfront development permit reinstated. We also have to get county approval.”
A waterfront development permit was issued in 2006 and revoked 5 years later in 2011. The DEP revoked their approval of the waterfront permit after being sued by the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper and Bergen Ridge Home Owners Association.
Peggy Wong said recently that the Riverview site did not flood during Hurricane Sandy, which she attributed to the “undeveloped” area, unlike the south of River Road that did flood.
“They are endangering the rest of the waterfront units as far as their flood insurance rates going sky high,” said Manogue.
Several residents believe that the development will create traffic congestion and obstruct picturesque views of the Manhattan skyline.
Zenn said they have complied with the view corridor ordinance to make sure the views of the Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline stay intact from the streets. According to Zenn, the Bergen Ridge Home Owners Association had a case in the appellate court about their own potentially disrupted views, but they were told they are “not entitled to a protective view of the river.”
“In fact we have wider view corridors then are even required,” said Zenn.
Lamb said his clients have a right to appeal the ruling, although he has not discussed the matter yet with them.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org