When real estate developer Joe Barry sat in the car of his political friend, County Executive Robert Janiszewski, he was not aware that their conversation was being recorded. At the end of last year, FBI agents had ensnared Janiszewski in a sting operation, causing him to help collect evidence in what appears to be a far-reaching federal probe. Federal agents had Janiszewski’s car wired. What Barry said, prompted the FBI, armed with search warrants, to raid his Hoboken office on August 14. The FBI spent six hours there. At the end of the day, they carted away 10 boxes of files. A month later, Barry resigned as the President and CEO of Applied Companies.
In the days following Janiszewski’s resignation as County Executive, announced on September 6, news stories speculated that a number of vendors are likely to be indicted. So far, only one other party, Joe Barry, has been named. It is not known what crime federal investigators are pursuing. What is known, however, is the pervasive influence and incestuous relationship that Barry has fostered with politicians in Hoboken and Hudson County.
Barry’s connections with Robert Janiszewski, U.S. Congressman Bob Menendez and State Senator Bernard Kenny have helped Barry to prosper through the largess of government grants and subsidies for his development projects. Millions of dollars in government grants came through the office of County Executive Robert Janiszewski subsidizing Barry’s Shipyard development at Hoboken’s north waterfront. Hudson County received and administered a $986,000 federal grant that paid for the construction of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway at Barry’s 1160-unit luxury riverfront housing project. Another grant coming through the County of approximately a million dollars paid for the construction of the public streets at the Shipyard site, a cost normally assumed by the private developer. In September, 1998, the Shipyard project was also the beneficiary of a $6.69 million federal Section 108 loan administered through HUD.
Thirty years ago, the City of Hoboken designated Joe Barry as their exclusive developer of Section 8 housing, in an ambitious program to rehabilitate deteriorated buildings to provide affordable homes to local residents. This program of tax-abated, federally subsidized housing proved very lucrative for Mr. Barry. Under the Section 8 program, low income tenants pay 30% of their income for rent. HUD then pays the property owner the additional amount to cover full market rate for the rent. After completing over 1300 units through the Section 8 program, Barry became Hoboken largest landlord. He also took over management for several senior citizen housing projects financed under the federal Section 202 program. As his real estate empire grew, so did his power and influence. Barry became adept at delivering votes as Applied Companies staff actively campaigned in their buildings for the favored candidates during election time. Elected officials could easily find federally subsidized units for qualified constituents by placing a call to Joe Barry.
Barry enhanced his influence in 1983, when he became owner and publisher of the Hoboken Reporter. In subsequent years, Barry expanded his control of the media by establishing Reporter newspapers in six other Hudson County towns: Jersey City, Weehawken, Secaucus, Union City, West New York and North Bergen.
Barry and his family returned more favors to elected officials through their generous campaign contributions. On July 29, 2001, Joe Barry contributed $20,000 in soft money to the national Democratic Party through two organizations, New Liberty Residential Urban Renewal Co. and New Liberty III. In the past four years, Joe Barry and other family members contributed over $80,000 to various United States Congressional and Senate candidates.
Barry developed a number of City-owned sites in Hoboken beginning with 115 units at Observer Park in 1987 and 150 units each at Hudson Square North and Hudson Square South in 1990. Each of these projects included a handful of affordable units. Each of these projects was also subsidized through a number of government grants, mostly HUD loans.
In the early 1990’s Applied Companies took over a number of bankrupt properties. They purchased 13 acres of prime real estate at Hoboken’s north waterfront, the Shipyard property, for the bargain price of $1.3 million. In 1994, Applied took over two Jersey City projects that went belly up, Portside just north of Liberty State Park and Port Liberte, originally billed as “Venice on the Hudson.” The prior owners of Port Liberte only sold 189 units of what was to be a 2,000 unit complex before being caught in real estate decline in the late 1980’s. Robert Janiszewski and his wife own a condominium at Port Liberte.
The Coalition for a Better Waterfront and other objectors challenged the Hoboken Planning Board’s approval of the Shipyard project. In 1995, a Superior Court Judge agreed with the objectors that granting over 45 variances for this project, in effect, subverted the intent of the Hoboken Zoning Ordinance. After the court defeat, Barry had his attorneys and planning expert rewrite the zoning for the I-1(W) zoning subdistrict where the Shipyard site is located. Hoboken Mayor Anthony Russo paved the way for the new zoning that increased building heights from 8 to 13 stories and eliminated open space requirements. In September of 1995, the Hoboken City Council unanimously adopted the new zoning despite strenuous objections from the Coalition. During this conflict, Barry took out a full page advertisement in his paper, the Hoboken Reporter, attacking the Coalition for a Better Waterfront as “waterfront zombies” and labeled one of the principals of this organization as a “cult leader.”
Joe Barry is now completing a 526 unit building filling an entire city block at Hoboken’s south waterfront. 333 River Street was originally planned as a 380 unit structure when the south waterfront redevelopment plan was originally adopted in 1993. In Jersey City, Barry’s organization has just completed a residential project, the Gotham, near the historic Paulus Hook neighborhood and will soon begin construction on what is billed at New Jersey’s tallest residential building, Harborspire. The twin towers of Harborspire will rise up 55 stories on Jersey City’s waterfront and will contain 862 “super-luxury” units.
On June 24, 1989, the New York Times ran a front page story about several New York regional HUD administrators raising money for charities through companies doing business with this federal agency. Many HUD vendors and local Housing Authority officials refused to participate since this was a clear violation of the federal ethics code, even if the money goes to a worthy cause. But for Joe Barry, the recipient of a multitude of HUD grants and subsidies, there was no hesitation. In 1987, Barry chaired a gala event at the Meadowlands Hilton to plan a fundraiser for New York University that would honor HUD’s regional administrator. Barry was vice chairman at a $350-a-plate affair at the New York Hilton on June 2, 1988 to honor another HUD official and raise money for the 52 Association that aids the handicapped. He bought two tickets and solicited others to buy one or two tables, resulting in contributions totaling between $3,500 to $7,000. Barry was quoted in the Times article as saying, “It’s a fact of life of the way business is done.”
During the 1960’s, Joe Barry was associated with the radical left-wing Students for Democratic Society. He began his professional career as a Legal Services attorney after graduating at the top of his class at Rutgers Law School. Walter Barry, his father, was a union organizer for the United Electrical Workers. Together, Walter and Joe Barry formed Applied Housing, Inc. in the early 1970’s.
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