Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mayor: Monarch litigation "uncertain"

Agency Logo
Wednesday November 2, 2016

City of Hoboken

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter  
Community: Open Letter from Mayor Zimmer to Residents Regarding Proposed Monarch Settlement Agreement

Dear Concerned Residents,

Thank you to all residents who have provided feedback on the proposed settlement of litigation relating to Monarch and the Monroe development. I write to try and respond to some of the concerns I have heard and to clear up some misunderstandings.

First, I want to make sure that everyone is aware that there will not be a vote on the settlement agreement at tonight's Council meeting. It was moved to November 14th to provide more time for community input.

I understand residents’ concerns about density. However it is important for the community to understand that there is already a preexisting redevelopment plan (the Northwest Redevelopment Plan) for 186 units and up to 14 floors of development at 800 Monroe. This redevelopment plan, which was approved by Mayor Russo in 1998, is the plan under which Metro Stop and several other buildings were constructed, and it is not possible to simply disregard the remaining elements of that plan.

Through the redevelopment process, which would begin if the settlement is approved, it will be possible to work with the community to reduce the impact on the existing neighborhood. (For example, to preserve as much of the rooftop views as possible through a well-designed layout of the buildings on the site).

Unfortunately, however, due to the preexisting redevelopment plan, it is not possible to say that there will be no development at 800 Monroe. Also given the existing redevelopment plan, the acquisition cost to purchase this and build a park would be astronomical. Residents should understand that whether we fight on with this litigation or not, a development on the scale of 186 units will be built at that site based on the existing approved plan.

Investments and 8-acre park expansion in western Hoboken:
I've received some feedback stating that I am not prioritizing western Hoboken. As a resident of western Hoboken, I actually have been very committed to expanding park space and making our west side neighborhoods more livable and flood resilient. My Administration is the first to build a flood pump to alleviate flooding in western Hoboken, create three new major parks west of Jefferson Street, and plan our first municipal parking garage in western Hoboken. We have focused tens of millions of dollars in investment and almost all of our major projects towards improving western Hoboken. We have begun construction on a one-acre Southwest Park and we are investing $30 million to buy 6 acres of land so we can build the largest park possible in our City along with western Hoboken’s first municipal parking garage. We also prioritized a new gym and 2-acre park at 7th and Jackson that will soon be under construction which will include 250,000 gallons of storm water storage to help alleviate localized flooding. The new BASF resiliency park is proposed to be built with a 1 million gallon detention system to help reduce the impact of flooding. The $11.2 million H-5 flood pump was just completed that is entirely for alleviating the flooding in western Hoboken when we experience heavy rain.

The Waterfront Belongs to All of Us:
Hoboken has the only nearly completed waterfront in New Jersey that offers the chance to stroll from one end of our City to the other without being cut off by development. Even though I live on the western side of the City, I often walk my dog, run, or bike on our waterfront. I entered into this agreement because I consider our waterfront to be a shared resource for all of us. It is something special that belongs to all of us, and I am trying to preserve it for generations to come.

For me this is not about anyone's view, but this is about the quality of life for our community and preserving our shared waterfront treasure.

The Risk is Real:
The outcome of this litigation if we continue to pursue it is uncertain. If we lose we block our community’s waterfront. We still have 186 units and up to 14 floors of development at 800 Monroe and we will have spent about $2 million in litigation costs with nothing but development to show for it.

Understanding the process:
A litigation settlement negotiation cannot be conducted as a public process. However, because of the importance of this settlement to Hoboken residents, we took the highly unusual step of publicly releasing the proposed agreement so the public will be fully informed and have an opportunity to have your views fully considered as the City Council makes its decision. It is also important for residents to know that the settlement is the first step. If this settlement is approved, a redevelopment agreement with more details about the design and layout of the buildings would have to be introduced to the City Council, reviewed by the Planning Board, and then return to the City Council for a public hearing. The public will have a chance to ask questions and provide input through every step of this process.

If the settlement is not approved, then the City will proceed with the litigation in court in December. However, given the significant risks we face, I believe the agreement is in the best interests of the City and therefore I am asking the City Council and our community to consider it. 

Thank you and best regards.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer

West side Hoboken residents voice anger, frustration and confusion over Monarch Project moving west

Last night an urgent meeting was called by westside Hoboken residents after the City of Hoboken's bombshell announcement it would seek to settle with the Barry family, re: Applied and jettison 70 units from the Monarch Project into a bigger density rental building at 800 Monroe.

Another group of residents planning to attend shifted going to City Hall to participate in a council subcommittee meeting on the same topic.

Dozens of local residents mostly from the Metrostop building aired their grievances mostly confused why they were the victims of a real estate assault proposing another high density building without any notice to them or their neighbors. Their questions ranged from asking why this was happening to inquiry about what is possible to do with the City of Hoboken to work with the property owners David and Michael Barry. On hand offering comment and some limited but not final answers: Council members Michael Russo and Dave Mello.

Russo immediately kicked off the meeting saying the council had nothing to do with the proposed settlement which came from Mayor Zimmer. He offered a number of scenarios to the residents for consideration but said a small structure was a right of the owners of 800 Monroe who may hold some rights beyond those zoning limitations. The third ward councilman said the Monarch Project should be "decoupled" from the Barry Family's property at on Monroe St. He said he would vote no on the settlement proposed for a vote rescheduled for later this month in the City Council.

It's unclear what the legal basis for separating the two properties owned by Applied, re: Ironstate or the Barry family would exactly entail in Russo's proposal.

Council members Michael Russo (c) and David Mello (l) in cap attended an urgent meeting of west side Hoboken residents hosted in Metrostop last night on the City proposal to see moved the Monarch Project to their neighborhood. That proposal is part of a settlement proposal the City is offering with David and Michael Barry of Applied/Ironstate who reneged on the Shipyard agreement with Hoboken to finish with tennis courts and parking.

Dave Mello voiced similar concerns in response to the shock and dismay by the attendees on the City's announcement Saturday with an original vote intended for tonight, now postponed for two weeks. Councilwoman Jen Giattino, the current City Council President removed the item from the agenda only yesterday.

One Hoboken resident asked where the other two votes would come from on the council to stop the City's pending agreement. They were urged to come to this evening's council meeting and voice their disapproval. Four votes will be needed to stop the City's comprehensive legal settlement among eight as Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher who is condo president to the Hudson Tea Building will recuse herself from participation.

The audience urged to be professional and polite by one of their own at the meeting's start was only slightly mollified. One resident asked about turning the property at least partially for a Hoboken High School and others inquired on other options for a smaller condo building. Councilman Russo said the City could purchase the property from the Barrys who he called friends over years adding that he's told them they are forgetting their roots. David and Michael Barry's father and grandfather made their fortune building low and moderate income housing in Hoboken, utilizing that success as a political base where residents were expected to show up on Election Day and vote as told.

David and Michael Barry's father Joseph Barry was arrested and sentenced to prison in 2004 for payments of over $114,000 in bribes to the Hudson County Executive connected to the waterfront Hoboken development the Shipyard.

The City of Hoboken stated Saturday a million in litigation fees has been spent and forecast another million required in legal fees although the Monarch Project matter now before the NJ Appellate Court has been briefed. Some suggest the Saturday release by the City shows a lack of confidence in their position.

Residents baffled by the sudden announcement with the original proposed vote Wednesday commented they are voters and taxpayers with some saying they had contacted the mayor and received no reply. They were urged by other resident leaders to try again while others expressed being sold out by the City of Hoboken to the waterfront property owners noting the Monarch Project as situated is in the corner of town impacting far fewer people versus being plopped down into the heart of the City.

The meeting for the neighborhood hosted at MetroStop, made news last year prior to the council elections when building residents went public with their years long nightmare in Patrick Ricciardi and his kids. The municipal employee was inserted in under the Hoboken Workforce Housing program and opened the floodgates to a long list of undesirable "visitors" who trashed the building on a regular basis and disrupted residents. Ricciardi was the former IT Manager at City Hall who pled guilty after being arrested in 2011 for creating a folder automatically capturing tens of thousands of email communications coming and going to the mayor's office.

Ricciardi would escape a prison sentence for those efforts and also eventually be forced to leave Metrostop after owing tens of thousands in building maintenance fees. He reportedly only paid the first one on arrival occupying a unit on the seventh floor.

The City of Hoboken had lawyers fight his ejection under their Workforce Housing program while the odor of drugs, broken door locks and miscreants were given free access in and out in all areas of the building. He was finally removed from the building only several months ago and the unit remains vacant tied to the City's program. Now many residents see themselves being victimized by the City once again capitulating to a different type of criminality at the hands of the Barry family.

Talking Ed Note: No small irony, one resident joining dozens of others came off the building elevator wearing a Forward Together BoE button. Mayor Zimmer has been out campaigning for the BoE slate set for Election Day next Tuesday.

Councilman Russo who voiced support for big development in his council run last year said he was for smaller development last night. He noted his relationship going back some years with David and Michael Barry. The Old Guard has been closely tied to the Barry's most recently in failed efforts to elevate BoE trustee Peter Biancamano in the second ward council election last year. Biancamano refused to come out against the Barry family litigating against the City on the Monarch Project. He would later be dubbed Monarch Man by Grafix Avenger and claim at the tail end of the race he was against the project.

Russo backed Biancamano's council bid and a ticket with the war cry, take Hoboken back to its days of glory and made a $2,500 loan to his failed election bid. 

Yesterday West Side residents created a petition under the banner HARMED - Hobokenites Against Radical & Egregious Development. In less than a day the petition has generated 322 signatures, the vast majority Hoboken residents.

MSV intends to sign the petition today and urges other Hoboken residents to join doing so.