Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Could a Hasidic Jewish development come to Bayonne's Military Ocean Terminal? 

A Brooklyn-based developer has aired a proposal for a development catered toward a Hasidic Jewish community on the city's former Military Ocean Terminal, but Bayonne officials don't seem keen on the idea.

Developer ACG Equities said its plan for the 40-acre, southwestern portion of the MOT known as Harbor Station South would bring in a "self-contained, residential community" to the city without adding any children to public schools, since the community would have its own private schools.

The developer -- whose proposal was obtained by The Jersey Journal -- said the plan would also call for community facilities, modern office space, shopping centers, parks, a hotel and convention facilities. ACG Equities didn't provide comment in response to follow-up inquiries.

Asked about a report saying the city has already rejected the plan, city Business Administrator Joe DeMarco said ACG Equities hasn't filed a formal application to the city for officials to begin considering the plan.

He added, however, that such a plan wouldn't be in line with what the city is looking for.

"What I will say is what they presented is not necessarily compatible with the buildings that are already planned there," DeMarco said.

The business administrator has told The Bayonne Community News that the city wants the MOT to be a destination for everyone and isn't looking for an "isolated" community, regardless of whether that's a gated community or a Hasidic Jewish community.

Preliminary plans for the MOT call for more than 2,500 residential units, a hotel, corporate offices, an outdoor retail center, a park, an extension of the Hudson River walkway, a pedestrian bridge going over Route 440, another pedestrian bridge linking the MOT to South Cove Commons, and a ferry service to New York City, DeMarco has said.

Though the idea of a Hasidic Jewish development is still being floated, city officials are apparently moving on. The City Council is slated to vote this week on designating a Whippany-based developer for a roughly 16-acre portion of Harbor Station South.

City Council President Sharon Nadrowski last week echoed DeMarco's concerns about the Hasidic Jewish community being isolated, adding that she doesn't believe such a group would be "looking to assimilate."

"That's what's attractive to them, that they can be isolated," she said.

Nadrowski added that the plan's initial figure of bringing in over 3,000 Hasidic Jewish families -- which would likely include more children per household than the average U.S. household -- would still come at a cost to city services.

City resident Paul DeAngelo -- who does not work for ACG Equities but who has aggressively petitioned the city in recent months to accept the Hasidic Jewish development -- has said the plan can be revised to accommodate only 1,500 families.

DeAnglo has also said that the community would not be secluded.

In response to DeAngelo saying the city in 2014 accepted a $30 million deal from developer Kate Howard LTD for Harbor Station South over a $57 million deal from ACG Equities, DeMarco said Kate Howard LTD's offer amounted to "about $50 million" as well.

The business administrator said the focus should not only be on the dollar amount of offers but also on other factors, such as whether a developer will commit to infrastructure improvements and whether the developer will follow through on a plan.

The city's deal with Kate Howard LTD failed in March, unexpectedly opening up a $15 million revenue hole in this year's city budget. As of last week, city officials said they were still working on filling the hole by the end of this month.

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