JCRA removes MCCDC as redeveloper for Communipaw project, Jones says move is retaliatory

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The Jersey City Redevelopment Agency removed the Morris Canal Community Development Corporation from a project they had been a part of for nearly two decades after issuing a default notice, which the head of the group says was because of political retaliation.

408-420 Communipaw Ave. Photo via Google Maps.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The MCCDC was assigned as the redeveloper of the project, designated for 408-420 Communipaw Ave., known as Communipaw Crossing, back in 2003 and sought to construct 46 moderate income affordable housing units at the time.

Back on September 11th of last year, an environmental report from Eikon Planning and Design LLC blamed the MCCDC for an underground storage tank spill in 2014, where remediation could “well exceed six figures in cost.”

In an email to Mayor Steven Fulop and city council, MCCDC Executive Director June Jones, then also a candidate for council-at-large, asked for “help in putting a stop to the unfair, stalling & obstructive behavior of the JCRA.”

“We at Morris Canal are so frustrated, disappointed and angry about the constant barriers that seem to occur to prevent our project from moving forward,” she wrote.

“We have made many attempts to resolve an underground storage tank spill, created by the JCRA’s action when removing the UST in 2014, well they finally addressed the issue and here is the most recent bombshell that they have laid in this struggling, nonprofits laps. Please read attached letter. This is another appearance of what Disparity looks like!”

Jones said the MCCDC ended up spending about $80,000 to clean the spill up.

About a month later, on October 14th, 2021, the JCRA rejected Philip Gesue as a proposed partner for the MCCDC.

“In 2018, MCCDC asked to reduce their affordable obligation from 100% (46 units) to 20% (10 units). The Agency, with great apprehension, complied. The Agency also made the concession to reduce the purchase price from Fair Market Value (estimated $1.3 million) to $925,000,” JCRA Executive Director Diana Jeffrey wrote to the MCCDC.

” … The deal terms in the current RDA with MCCDC were negotiated to be deliberately advantageous to MCCDC because it is a non-profit community developer, and because MCCDC sought to create affordable home ownership. In the Agency’s, considered opinion these advantageous deal terms would not and should not apply to the for-profit Proposed JV.”

In light of that, the MCCDC decided to forge a partnership with the Park Avenue Builders, but the JCRA rejected that proposal as well.

” … The JCRA notes several examples in the Operating Agreement in which PAB is required to compensate MCCDC, to wit: PAB’s payment of $550,000 to MCCDC as part of its Initial Capital Contributions; and PAB agreeing to compensate MCCDC with ownership of one residential or retail unit and complimentary use of a ground floor of the monetization of MCCDC’s redeveloper designation for Agency-owned land, and it must be discouraged as a matter of public policy,” JCRA Counsel Eric E. Tomaszewski wrote on January 20th.

This came two weeks after Tomaszewski issued the MCCDC a notice of default.

Ultimately, the JCRA voted unanimously (7-0) to terminate them as a redeveloper on the Communipaw Crossing project without discussion, approving the measure as part of their consent agenda.

“MCCDC did not proceed to commence to cure or remedy such default or breach of the Agreement by the February 3rd, 2022 deadline and such default or beach has continued to current day, ” the resolution says.

” … The Agency now desires to terminate MCCDC’s designation as redeveloper of the Project Premises and the Agreement, and to authorize the Executive Director to execute any and all documents necessary to discharge the recorded Agreement.”

In a phone interview, Jones said that the JCRA regularly brushed her organization off when they tried to meet with Jeffrey and is upset with the way things ended, attributing it to politics.

“I feel that it’s retaliation, that’s what I feel. I’m sad about that, I’m really hurt. Pouring my life into this project … it does make a difference. We’re the only home grown CDC, as well as the only one operated by an African American woman. We couldn’t get a meeting? I find that hard to believe,” she stated.

JCRA officials did not return inquiries seeking further comment.