Citing project size & neighbors concerns, Union City Planning Board rejects Palisades Vista proposal

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Citing the size of the project, along with other concerns from neighbors, the Union City Planning Board rejected the Palisades Vista, LLC proposal that would’ve included two, four-story buildings near the city’s border with Weehawken.

“I think that we have a lot of love for this neighborhood, it’s an important location in Union City and I actually think this is a very important structure on that block that defines that block across from that Reservoir,” began project architect Manny Pereiras.

He continued that they had worked with counsel and the city planner to scale back the project to meet the guidelines presented in the Master Plan and that the six-unit structure (two new three-family houses) at 2113-2115 Palisade Ave. is now fully compliant.

Despite this fact, a handful of neighbors spoke out against the development, saying it would destroy the character of the neighborhood, among other concerns.

“Our quality of life, to have everything that we hold so valuable and dear for us, would be completely interrupted between the noise and the pollution from all of the construction that will be happening. Our infrastructure as it is today cannot support the project,” said Union City resident Michele Iacovelli.

She also said that she felt the project would devalue their homes and that she felt so strongly against it this was one of the few times she was leaving her house during the COVID-19 pandemic – to speak out against the development.

A couple of Weehawken residents from the neighborhood also echoed a similar sentiment.

” … I just can’t think of a better illustration of how important that can be than to look at the property that is currently sitting and look at the building that’s currently sitting on this property. And then look at this generic cube that these people want to build that just screams  … ‘hey come on buy a house and we’ll build one of the ugly this next to you,” stated Jeff Taylor.

After the public portion concluded, Pereiras acknowledged that people aren’t comfortable with the buildings being four stories, noting that the planning board passed a measure earlier this year limiting future developments to three stories or less.

However, that does not impact Palisade Vista since their application was made before the local legislation was approved, and therefore, they are not asking for a single variance or any other exception in this situation.

Nevertheless, the proposal didn’t sit well with state Senator (D-33)/Union City Mayor Brian Stack, who also sits on the planning board, who exclaimed that the project is just too large for that neighborhood and that residents concerns need to be considered.

“It’s much too big for that neighborhood: it may work somewhere else …  Someone said it may work somewhere else in the city, and I agree with that. It’s much too big,” he asserted.

” … The house that’s there, it’s a beautiful home, you know it’s a beautiful home, if anything maybe put a small addition on the back, but keep the structure there. It’s beautiful structure. When your client bought the house, he had to know he was gonna face opposition.”

After a brief recess, Alex Alicea, the property owner and a retired Union City police detective, addressed the board, noting that his wife still works in the city and his parents still live there, as well as that they planned on moving in last year prior to the pandemic.

“This is what’s gonna work for me and my family … it’s not this big bad Boogie Man that’s coming in and trying to make things worse, I’m just trying to do what I can for my family.”

Bianca Pereiras, the attorney for the project and Manny’s sister, reiterated that the project meets all the local guidelines in place and is seeking no preferential treatment, but the board remained undeterred.

“Yes, it’s permitted, but part of our obligation is to take and consider the comments of the public, many of them bringing out the negative impact of this project. I’m very well aware of my responsibilities are as a board member but thank you for reminding me,” exclaimed Board Chair Diane Capizzi.

Ultimately, Vice Chair Alex Velazquez made a motion to reject the application, which was seconded by Commissioner Hector Oseguera, and the board voted the project down unanimously (6-0).