After $15M defunct project, Bayonne officials want a ferry station at MOT

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After a defunct Harbor Station South project left the City of Bayonne with a $15 million budget hole, Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti, who had a role in the cancelled project, and the Mayor Jimmy Davis administration are calling for a ferry station at the former Military Ocean Terminal.

Back in September, Davis announced that Kate Howard LTD would be the developer for Harbor Station South, whose plan included a 300-room hotel and at least 750 residential units.

The area is adjacent to Route 440 and has been vacant for years. However, the mayor then revealed in April that Kate Howard LTD had backed out of the project.

In an email, Andrew Casais, Davis’ chief of staff, said the city is currently advertising the request for expressions of interest (RFEI) – which has a submission date of June 30.

“For purposes of formalizing solicitation, this is being considered like an RFP (request for proposal) process,” Casais added.

As has been well-documented, this has caused a $15 million hole in the city’s proposed $135 million budget, which will likely be approved at the June 22 council meeting.

Chiaravalloti spoke to us about the subject after a press conference regarding stricter regulations for train conductors dealing with the consequences of a DWI at Secaucus Junction on May 27.

After we filed an Open Public Records Act request (OPRA) seeking all legal bills related to the Harbor Station South project, invoices show the city paid Parsippany law firm Inglesino, Webster, Wyciskala & Taylor, LLC $44,776.56 for services rendered between October 2014 and March 2016.

Back in September 2015, the city appeared to be close to finalizing a memorandum of understanding, but no such agreement was ever finalized.

Further examination of the bills shows that Chiaravalloti, an attorney for high-powered Parsippany law firm Weiner Lesniak LLP, worked with Inglesino attorney Ana Murteira and firm partner John Wyciskala on a handful of occasions between December and March regarding a redevelopment agreement.

Since he was working with Kate Howard LTD, as opposed to the city, on the project, the OPRA response did not indicate how much he was paid for his efforts.

Chiaravalloti later confirmed that Weiner Lesniak was representing Kate Howard LTD in the Harbor Station South matter.

He added that the key to bringing a ferry terminal to the Peninsula City is bringing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to the negotiating table.

“On the ferry, the real challenge at this point is we need to work with the Port Authority in order to take back some of the land that was originally sold to them a number of years ago. Because the ideal location for the ferry is adjacent to the old hotel. And those conversations are ongoing, we’re working on it.”

Chiaravalloti further stated that once the remaining Military Ocean Terminal property is acquired from the Port Authority, “we’ll be able to move fairly quickly in setting up a ferry terminal.”

The state Assemblyman also thanked U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8), as well as U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ) for their continuing to communicate with Davis on how to bring a ferry terminal to Bayonne.

In the email from Casais mentioned earlier, he also confirmed that a ferry terminal “is something the city is aggressively pursuing.”

“The Mayor considers this a priority and believes it would be very beneficial to Bayonne now, and even more so once Harbor Station South and the former Military Ocean Terminal (MOT) as a whole is developed.”