By Ron Hine | FBW | October 29, 2014

Last night, before a filled to capacity hearing room, the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders dealt the Shipyard Associates a stunning setback. With one abstention, all Freeholders voted to uphold the decision made in February of 2012 by the Hudson County Planning Board to deny the application of the Shipyard Associates to build the Monarch Towers. In 2011, the Shipyard Associates proposed this 78-unit residential project on a Hudson River pier bordering a county road. The Freeholders held this hearing in response to a ruling by Superior Court Judge Nestle Rodriguez.

Mayor Zimmer and two City Council members were the first to speak followed by a long succession of Hoboken residents, all of whom were adamantly opposed to the Monarch Towers. The Freeholders got an earful about traffic woes and the dangers of building in the Coastal High Hazard Zone. At the start of the hearing, attorney Kevin Coakley argued the case for his client Shipyard Associates while attorneys representing the Hudson Tea Building Condo Association and the Hudson County Planning Board made the case to uphold the denial.

This was a far cry from an earlier era, in the 1980s and 1990s, when the founder of Applied Companies and Shipyard Associates, Joe Barry, held sway over the mayor and council. At that time, he was Hoboken’s biggest developer and landlord. His federally subsidized Section 8 tenants constituted his base of power. He could deliver their votes to the candidates he favored and pack hearing rooms in support of his development projects. Few politicians dared to oppose him. In 2004, a jury convicted Joe Barry of making $114,900 in cash payments to former County Executive Robert Janiszewski. Subsequently, the U.S. Attorney’s office forced him to resign from Applied Companies and Shipyard Associates.

His sons, David and Michael Barry, now run the companies. But unlike their father, they could muster no political or community support. In 2011, the Barry brothers applied for and received a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) waterfront permit to build the Monarch Towers.

In 1995, Joe Barry obtained approval from the Hoboken Planning Board to build the Shipyard project on nine acres of prime real estate at Hoboken’s northeast waterfront. By 2011, the last of the 1160 approved units were completed. A developer’s agreement between Shipyard Associates and the City was signed concurrent with the Planning Board approval requiring the last parcel to be developed as open space with tennis courts, a tennis pavilion and the state-mandated public walkway. The Shipyard Associates reneged on this agreement by proposing to build these towers on a pier where they had agreed to create open space.

Politicians and people alike were united in opposition to the Monarch project at the Freeholder's hearing.

Politicians and people alike were united in opposition to the Monarch project at the Freeholder’s hearing.

After the public hearing concluded, Freeholder Bill O’Dea made a motion to take a vote that night, rather than waiting out the 30 days allowed by the judge to make a decision. After the motion passed, O’Dea moved to uphold the February 2012 denial by the Hudson County Planning Board. All of the Freeholders supported the motion save one who abstained. The case now will go back to Judge Rodriguez for a final ruling on the matter.

The on-going litigation on the Monarch Towers case includes appeals of the NJDEP waterfront permit approvals, challenges in federal court by the developer of the City of Hoboken’s amended flood ordinance and appeals of Judge Rodriguez’s decision to automatically approve the project

The conviction of Joe Barry was based on payments made to the County Executive in connection with $8.8 million state and federal grants and loans for the Shipyard project between 1996 and 2000.

Related links

FBW motion to intervene in federal court granted
FBW Brief (filed 06-13-2014)
Developers challenge Hoboken flood ordinance in federal court
Judge grants automatic approval for controversial Monarch Towers
Monarch Towers described as classic case of bait and switch
Monarch Towers now in FEMA’s Coastal High Hazard flood zone
Gov. Christie vetoes bill that could jeopardize flood insurance eligibility
City sues Monarch developers for breach of contract
County Planning Board stuns Monarch developers with “no” vote
DEP flouts its permit to restore pier as open space
Shipyard’s plan to privatize pier