To the Editor:
Finally, the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J. has the land for a container port down at the MOT. They are giving the city $235 million for 24 years for the sale of three parcels, $130 million for the 130 acres of the Peninsula, plus almost 100 underwater acres and $100 million for roadway easements, which would be about $10 million a year.
Some questions come to mind, like did the BLRA even consider leasing the land to the Port Authority instead of selling it? If we leased the land, then we would still control it at the end of the 24 years and we could do whatever we wanted with it. But now we don’t have this option with this deal. Here is something to think about: the Virginia Port Authority will pay APM Terminals Inc. an average of $57.75 million a year in base rent for the right to operate the company’s private 291 acre Portsmouth marine cargo terminal over the next 20 years, and that figure, an estimate based on expected inflation, totals $1.16 billion over the life of the contract, according to a copy of the lease agreement posted to the port authority’s website. Everybody was saying the land at the MOT was quite valuable and worth a lot of money, but at $135 million, it looks like a bargain. Is this really the best deal that our city officials could have gotten us? Some people may think this was a fire sale to help cover the city’s budget deficit for the next several years.
The Port Authority does not pay taxes on the property it owns, so will there be any pilot program to pay something to the city for the land and will the rate go up as our property taxes go up? Will the $100 million road easement preclude Bayonne’s ability to charge a container fee for each container that is unloaded from the ships that unload there? For the past several years, I have heard people mention that cities charge a fee for containers that are unloaded from their ports. In the Virginia Port deal, there is a provision to make additional payments to APM in each year the cargo volume exceeds 500,000 containers. The Virginia Port Authority would pay $35 for each container handled between 500,000 and 650,000 a year, and $26 for each container exceeding 650,000, according to the lease. Charging fees for each container can be a new source of revenue for the city.
Now any taxpayer can call the BLRA and request to find out who the other bidders were and probably request copies of the paperwork, but why hasn’t the BLRA published who the seven other bidders for the parcels of land were to the general public? All these talks were secret for the past couple of months, and the general public could not know. So let us see who they were. The main question is: were there any shipping firms as one of those bidders, and if none, why is that? Was any thought given to approaching companies like Evergreen or Maersk? Were these other bidders just more real estate companies looking to build more housing and retail?
Another thing is in the June meeting, the BLRA approved negotiations to be held with the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J. for the sale of the three parcles of land on the MOT. But then the next day in the paper, the Port Authority sad the sale was done. It’s seems kind of strange that the BLRA board would approve negotiations and the next day the paper was stating the Port Authority said it was signed and sealed. So what was the point of even having any vote for negotiations if it was supposedly done already?
Now the city’s budget deficit is about $30 million a year. If we receive $10 million a year, then how will the city make up the rest or if it receives large balloon payments to cover the deficit for a couple years, how about after that?
It seems the Port Authority is getting the best side of this deal. We still have the U.S. Army looking for $35 million and the BLRA owes Fidelco/Roseland $25 million. We still have to wait to see what the final details of the agreements are and see if the taxpayers of Bayonne are getting hosed. I urge all taxpayers to come to the BLRA meeting in July and voice their opinion on this deal. Questions must be asked and answers given. Once this sale is approved, these three parcels of valuable land on the MOT are gone forever. The next BLRA meeting is on July 15 and the meeting usually starts at 6 p.m.