The future of Hoboken’s lawsuit attempting hold Shipyard Associates, a real estate developer owned by Ironstate Development, accountable for an agreement that the city says requires them to build public amenities on the developer’s uptown riverfront land is in jeopardy.
The original plan for Ironstate’s Monarch project, first approved by the city’s Planning Board in 1997, was for a mixed-use project including the construction of three tennis courts in addition to around 1,000 residential units. But in 2012, Shipyard Associates decided to do away with the tennis courts, replacing them with two 11-story luxury apartment buildings. The city has been suing to force Ironstate to stick to their original plan to build the courts.
The project is proposed for the waterfront near 14th Street, as part of the larger Shipyard development project that already exists.
On Wednesday night, the divided Hoboken City Council failed to continue funding the contracted law firm representing the city, despite Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s recent announcement that the city would appeal a judge’s recent decision dismissing the city’s case.
A resolution submitted to the council by Zimmer requesting an additional $150,000 for the law firm of Maraziti, Falcon & Healey failed to pass due to a 4-4 tie. The members of the council aligned with Zimmer voted in favor of the funding, while those against her did not.
The added legal fees would have brought the firm’s contract for the case to $268,500.
“There goes representation on the Monarch.” – Council President Peter Cunningham
Over the years, Hoboken officials and activists have worked more and more to try to preserve the remaining open space in the city.
Last week, Zimmer defended her administration’s legal spending, which has been under scrutiny by her political opponents ahead of the November mayoral election. She said that continuing funding for the Monarch project is imperative for the well-being of uptown residents.
“I do not know whether the City will ultimately succeed in its litigation with regard to the Monarch project, but I do know that using all the tools that we have available to protect the rights of Hoboken residents is the right thing to do,” she said in a statement.
On Friday, she blasted her opposition on the council, saying that their decision to block the funding lacked reason.
“There is no public policy rationale for blocking this funding,” she said. “I don’t understand, is this an attack on open space in Hoboken?”
Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo called the city’s spending for outside special counsel, which is listed in the budget as $1.6 million for the current year, “obscene” and 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti argued that because the Monarch case was already closed, there was no need for further funding.
Zimmer’s allies on the council voiced noticeable exasperation upon failing to approve the funding, with Council President Peter Cunningham saying, “There goes representation on the Monarch.”
Cunningham said later that he would look into convening a special meeting of the council specifically with the objective of reinstating the funding.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org