Oh boy, eminent domain… revisited
Remember the two businesses by the Hoboken High School field that were supposed to be demolished and turned into condos? This was part of the NW development plan, and a contract was signed in 1998.
Well that topic has come up again. And this looks like a tricky situation. D. Kwitman and Son, and U-Store-It are again in danger of possibly losing their businesses to eminent domain. However, if the Hoboken City Council decides not to pass this ordinance, it could cost $20 million dollars in compensatory damages! What to do now?
Will Hoboken take 2 businesses?
HOBOKEN – The City Council is being asked, once again, to authorize a controversial plan to take two businesses in the Northwest Redevelopment Zone – but it’s anyone’s guess if Mayor David Roberts can win the five votes needed to introduce the ordinance at tonight’s council meeting.
In March, the City Council withdrew an ordinance authorizing the condemnation of two Grand Street properties, citing a lawsuit filed on behalf of the redeveloper – Ursa/Tarragon.
The lawsuit accused the City Council of dragging its feet on the vote, and as a result, violating a 1998 redeveloper contract that requires the governing body to use its power of eminent domain to take the businesses – D. Kwitman and Son, a factory, and U-Store-It, a self-storage facility.
Last month, Superior Court Judge Carmen Messano ordered the City of Hoboken to “introduce an ordinance or ordinances, or choose not to introduce any ordinances providing for the acquisition of properties.”
City Council members are faced with mounting opposition from members of the public who argue that the eight-year old redevelopment study no longer applies to the vibrant and bustling Northwest.
Complicating matters further is a potential conflict of interest involving two council members. Michele Russo, the wife of former Mayor Anthony Russo and the mother of Councilman Michael Russo, is the designated real estate agent if the properties are turned into condos.
Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, who is a cousin of Anthony Russo, is also likely to abstain.
Councilman Peter Cammarano has promised to oppose the measure.
“I am not going to condemn private property for redevelopment,” Cammarano said yesterday. “The only circumstance where I would feel comfortable condemning (property) is one that is literally a threat to public safety.”
Roberts, who said he couldn’t tell how the vote would go, said he is concerned of repercussions from the city breaking an eight-year old contract for which the city has already reaped benefits.
According to a memo from Corporation Counsel Joseph Sherman, “the failure of the city to adhere to its contractual obligations can subject the city to compensatory damages in excess of $20 million.”