Roseland Properties, Inc., the developer of the Port Imperial South project, received its permit from the state DEP last week, which enables the developer, Carl Goldberg, to move forward with both phases of the proposed project.
The state DEP permit means that both the local municipal authorities and the state have given approval to the entire project.
"It's the final permit we needed to receive," Goldberg said. "I truly believe that it's a vindication and validation of what the Weehawken Planning Board came up with. It's completely consistent with what the Planning Board said. In fact, the Planning Board was more arduous than the DEP. It has the appropriate level of density and is in compliance with the view preservation. I think it's quite a tribute to the Planning Board."
In order to receive the permit from the DEP, Roseland Properties had to agree to a list of 16 different conditions that they have to follow. The DEP stated that they would closely monitor the construction of the proposed project, which will eventually include brownstone homes, a hotel, an assisted living facility, as well as commercial office space and shopping areas.
"It was a very clear and straight forward approach to achieving the permit," Goldberg said. "There weren't any differences in opinion from what the Planning Board had recommended as to what the DEP came up with. I'm very proud of this permit. There were lot of comments and letters written to the DEP, both in support of the project and those who are opposed. All of those letters were taken into consideration and the DEP came up with the same conclusion, that the project was consistent with the DEP's Coastal Zone Management policy."
Added Goldberg, "I would personally say that this permit is a true validation of the two-to-three year process. There was trading of views and ideas and there were compromises made on both sides. When we received this permit, I honestly felt the weight of the world being taken off my shoulders. This is a bonafide agreement."
The news of the DEP approval comes on the heels of the environmental remediation cleanup program that is ongoing at the site, in order to begin construction of the first phase of the project, the 42 brownstone homes. However, all of this work is being done despite a pending lawsuit that was filed by the Friends of the Weehawken Waterfront. The FWW filed the suit last March, citing that the Planning Board process that Roseland went through to obtain a construction permit from the township was tainted, because the board chairman lived within 200 feet of the proposed site.
Activists not notified
Ben Goldman, a representative for the FWW, said last week that he was unaware that Roseland had received the DEP permit, although he anticipated that the developer would receive state approval.
"We were completely unaware of this and kept out of the loop once again," Goldman said. "We have no information on the remediation and no knowledge of what's being proposed. Everything is being done behind closed doors. We submitted several written correspondences to the DEP regarding the permit and made extensive comments at the hearing [held in February]. I suspect that the DEP didn't take our comments into consideration." Added Goldman, "We haven't seen remediation and have not been given a remediation schedule. We anticipated that the DEP would give approval. We just didn't know when."
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner praised the process and called it "another step in the right direction."
"Getting the permit from the state is a highly significant approval," Turner said. "The DEP does not issue permits unless everything is adequate within their own several different divisions. It's gratifying to know that all the separate divisions of the DEP have reviewed the material and realized that the project meets the standards in order to issue the permit."
Added Turner, "The bottom line was that the state DEP reviewed all the information and concurred with our Planning Board. The Planning Board had more use issues, while the DEP was more concerned with environmental issues. But the goal was the same. It's a verification of what the Planning Board had already approved. The township found the project worthy, and now the state finds that the project is worthy. It's just another step towards an orderly development of the waterfront, one that reaches the goals and objectives of the vast majority of people in the community."
Turner said that the DEP looked at this project as "the most extensively reviewed development along the Hudson River waterfront."
"Now, the developer has received the green light and has the right to proceed with completing the entire project," Turner said.
Goldberg seems to think that the DEP's permit will supercede any pending lawsuit.
"The more that positive things like this take place, it begins to take away any impact litigation would have," Goldberg said. "Not only did the Planning Board give its approval, but it was corroborated by the DEP. I think that speaks volumes to any judge who will preside in the case and will respect the fact that municipal and state officials came to the same conclusion."