County Planning Board stuns Monarch developers with a “no” vote

(February 22, 2012)
At the end of its second hearing on February 22, the Hudson County Planning Board rejected the application for the Monarch project by a vote of 6 to 2. The Commissioners and consultants to the Board were baffled by attempts from the developer’s attorney and traffic consultant to explain why they termed the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway at the site, a “street.” (See link below, Can the waterfront walkway be a “street”?)

The Shipyard Associates’ problems at the hearing were compounded by a long list of speakers all of whom opposed the project, complaining about traffic gridlock, broken agreements to create open space and conflicts with the Hudson County Master Plan. The initial hearing in March had to be continued to February 22 due to the number of speakers. One Commissioner commented after the hearing that this was the first time in eight years they voted down a development project!

The Monarch project consists of two eleven-story towers on a pier at the north end of the Shipyard Development at Hoboken’s northeast waterfront. The developers are brothers Michael and David Barry of Ironstate Development/Shipyard Associates/Applied Companies. The final buildings of this 1160-unit project were completed last year, approved by the Hoboken Planning Board in 1997. This approval required the Barrys to develop this last block, Development Block G, most of which is on a pier over the Hudson River, as open space with tennis courts and the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway. The Monarch project would build over area originally slated for the tennis courts and most of the open space to add another 78 units to the Shipyard Development.

The County Planning Board will adopt a resolution at its March 14 meeting listing the reasons for rejecting this high-rise project. The developer’s application to Hoboken Planning Board is now scheduled for April 3. The Hoboken Board, however, will likely not hear the application unless the Shipyard Associates can reverse the decision of the Hudson County Planning Board. According to the attorney for the Fund for a Better Waterfront, Michael Garofalo of Laddey Clark & Ryan, the Hoboken Planning Board cannot hear an application that has been rejected by the County. The developers can appeal to the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the court system but that could take a number of months to resolve.

Pier for Monarch development

Development Block G at the Shipyard, an open space pier proposed for 2 towers.

The Shipyard Associates may have set a record in government subsidies for a private, luxury housing project. In July 1998, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the project $6.69 million in federal loan guarantees. HUD provided an additional $1 million in the form of an Economic Development Initiative grant. The federal Transportation Enhancement Program authorized approximately $1.036 million to build the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway at the Shipyard Project, despite the fact the developer was obligated to build the public walk as a condition of its NJDEP waterfront permit. In 1995 and 1996, the Local Aid Division of the NJDOT allocated approximately $1.064 million to the Hudson County Engineering Department for the Shipyard project to construct some of the roadways. In 1999, NJDOT provided another $365,000 for the 15th Street Extension.

All of this government largess came through Hudson County government and then County Executive Robert Janiszewski. Joseph Barry, then the head of the Shipyard Associates later pled guilty to providing over $114,000 in kickbacks to Janiszewski, forcing Barry to resign from the development company.

Related links

Can the waterfront walkway be a “street”?
FBW challenges state approval for towers on Hoboken pier
DEP flouts its permit to restore pier as open space
Shipyard’s plan to privatize pier