Jersey City Planning Board votes down 3,079-unit, 4-tower proposal at 80 Water St.

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The Jersey City Planning Board denied a three-phase project at 80 Water St., which would’ve include 3,079 units and four towers, largely due to the fact that had not solidified an agreement with NJ Transit for a proposed Hudson-Bergen Light Rail extension.

Screenshot via Zoom.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

The first phase called for a 30-story tower with 473 units, with the second phase seeking two towers: one with 38 stories and another with 55 for a combined 1,567 units, and then finally a third phase with a 55-story tower with 1,039 units for a total of 3,079.

“Our client is redeveloping this property … which has been vacate for some time,” attorney Jennifer Mazawey said.

She said in 2013, the city created the Route 440 Culver Redevelopment Plan, which describes taking large industrial blocks and making a pedestrian-friendly grid.

Mazawey said they would donate property to NJ Transit to develop the light rail, which was first announced in March 2020.

“55 percent of the property is actually given back for park and green infrastructure: There have been extensive discussions and meetings with the community over the last two past years … This is a variance-free application,” she added.

Since no variances were being requested, there would be no trigger for the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance provision mandating affordable housing.

Engineer James Ward discussed the light rail plan with NJ Transit to coordinate.

“We’re pretty consistent with the redevelopment plan,” he said.

“The light rail, right of way, why isn’t that its own lot?” asked Board Chair Christopher Langston asked.

“We’ve had conversations with NJ Transit on how they want to receive that,” Ward said.

Mazawey also noted that they only wanted partial approval for Phases II and III.

“Being that’s it not a separate lot if something were to happen as far phase II and III weren’t built out in an appropriate timeline, that would hold up the light rail,” Board Chair Christopher Langston said.

“There’s an option or right for NJ Transit to take the property. The bonuses for which are clients are seeking are similarly related to phase II,” Mazawey replied, reiterating that they’re still sorting out the details

Commissioner Joey Torres said if the light rail weren’t built, it would harm many projects in the area.

“We don’t believe that will happen. Their timeline is consistent with ours,” Mazawey responded.

“You say that. But I don’t see that,” Torres answered.

“Without the dedication of the transit right of way, we’re not entitled to the bonuses we’re seeking,” Mazawey argued.

“It’s critical infrastructure,” Langston interjected.

Mazawey again stated that the light rail is critical to their project, but argued that taking the position that they need a redeveloper’s agreement to proceed is inconsistent with the deal they worked out with the city.

“There is more that goes into the redevelopment agreement. I thought we were clear … the applicant has to be designated as the redeveloper,” Board attorney Santo Alampi explained, though Mazawey expectedly disagreed with that interpretation.

“If the applicant is setting it aside as a right of way for specific use, even though the terms are not finalized, it’s still baked in the cake. It will exist as a right of way for NJ Transit,” Commissioner Steve Lipski argued, which Mazawey thought was the correct interpretation.

Still, Torres and Commissioner Dr. Orlando Gonzalez said this wasn’t a time to act on hypotheticals and maybes.

“We see the congestion happening. It makes it very difficult,” added Commissioner Vidya Gangadin.

“NJ Transit has the absolute right to take by condemnation this property. The intention is to dedicate and donate this land,” Mazawey said.

“What if they don’t want to go there?” Lipski asked, to whichMazawey responded that they could make the NJ Transit land a separate lot.

“It’s your intention to dedicate this to NJ Transit no matter what,” Lipski continued.

“Correct,” Mazawey answered.

She said the plan would be finalized in a separate board approval for Phase II and III, including light rail details.

During the public portion, many community activists came out against the measure before the board.

“West View is a complicated project,” Lincoln Park North Association President Kayla Burrell said during the public comment period, claiming that the project burdens the area and has no affordable units, and therefore, they did not support it.

“I’ve been sent here to oppose this project. The board is spot on getting the developer certified by the JCRA. This is a project built on wishes, hopes, and dreams,” West Side Station Condo Association Treasurer Troy Shuman said.

Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey joined them in coming out the development.

“The residents that have spoken have made compelling points. Without having this RDA in place … community bonuses that are coming at the end are concerning. I’m lending my voice to yours in opposition to the subdivision,” she said.

“They’re in conversation with NJ Transit. But they cannot provide that document because that document doesn’t exist. If that’s an issue for the board, it’s an issue for the board,” Alampi said in summation.

Langston said that he didn’t think they were in compliance with the redevelopment plan without a clear cut agreement with NJ Transit, to which Alampi said that NJ Transit currently doesn’t have a dedicated lot, either.

“Without the set aside for the light rail plan, I don’t think they’re complying with the redevelopment plan,” Langston said.

Ultimately, Gonzalez made a motion to deny, which Gangadin seconded.

“I haven’t been comfortable since the beginning of the presentation when I found out the RDA was not in place,” Gonzalez said.

“It’s too much of a chance right now that we have nothing in place,” Torres indicated, to which Gangadin also agreed.

The project was voted down 6-1, with Lipski voting against.

Alampi then said the site plan application could not go forward without the first approval, so a motion to dismiss site plan approval for all three phases was approved unanimously (7-0).


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