A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that claimed the City of Jersey City delayed the Kushner Companies $900 million One Journal Square project by playing anti-Trump politics, ruling that it had “no plausibly asserted constitutional violation.”
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez ruled that despite Mayor Steven Fulop repeatedly speaking out against the matter in the press and on social media, Kushner Cos. had failed to prove political retribution.
“Plaintiffs have not alleged racial discrimination, corruption, or self-dealing. Even if Plaintiffs plausibility alleged their political retribution theory, it is not clear that this would constitute conduct that shocks the conscience,” he wrote.
“Regardless, as explained above, Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged this theory, and instead have alleged a property development dispute. Of course, the development at issue is enormous, but the cost of a project does not satisfy the shocks the conscience standard.”
The project, which has been in the works since at least 2015, would be massive: including one 70-story tower, one 50-story tower and at least 3,000 residential units.
As HCV first reported, Kushner Companies and the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency began sparring in April 2018 over providing a significant tax break for the project, with the JCRA shortly thereafter claiming that the developer violated their redevelopment agreement.
The 11-count suit alleged that Fulop began to pump the brakes on the project once Jared Kushner, the former president of the company, resigned to become President Donald Trump’s senior advisor (he is also the president’s son-in-law).
“The court saw right through the smoke and mirrors, and we stood firm, refusing to be bullied regardless of a company’s name,” Fulop said in a statement.
“Our decisions are always in our resident’s best interest, and we were not about to back down despite the many, very public attempts to drag my name and the city’s credibility through the mud.”
Victor Afanador, of the Newark-based law firm Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC, represented the city in the case and stated that Kushner Cos. tried to present a contract dispute as multiple constitutional violations.
“The complaint was nothing but a veiled attempt to hide the Plaintiffs’ contractual shortcomings by trying to blame it on Mayor Fulop and an alleged political animus,” Afanador added.
“The plaintiffs alleged various baseless constitutional violations to bolster what at most amounts to a mere contract dispute that has no business in federal court. This is a major victory for the city and the municipal defendants.”
Additionally, they also have 30 days to file an amended complaint or refile the lawsuit “in the appropriate state courts.”
In a statement, Kushner Companies General Counsel Emily Wolf said that the case is far from over in their eyes.
“Mayor Steven Fulop’s declaration of ‘victory’ today is laughable but not surprising from this Jersey City politician. The court made no final rulings on the merits of the claims, including whether Fulop and the City retaliated against One Journal Square based on Fulop’s publicly proclaimed political animus towards Kushner Companies,” she said.
“We are confident that we will ultimately demonstrate that Fulop and the City have engaged in an egregious violation of the rights of One Journal Square,” noting that the city is currently on the hook for $98,000 worth of legal fees and costs related to an Open Public Records Act lawsuit over thousands of emails related to the project.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a comment from Kushner Companies General Counsel Emily Wolf.