Mercury Lot Action

Hoboken Mercury Lot action {for real this time!}

So they recently have been working on the empty lot on 8th Street between Grand and Adams. This is also known as the Hoboken Mercury Lot.

Obviously, there is a new building coming soon to this lovely plot of land.

Some residents are still concerned that, despite an EPA ruling that the site was “safe” for residential use back in 2004, that perhaps government agencies are inept – and there could be leftover toxins. You know, those pesky “oversights” or whatever mistakes people make.

I wonder if Real Estate agents are ever going to even mention this to their potential clients?



mercury lot

(previous updates below…)

Mercury Lot Action in Hoboken, NJ

1/8/2014 Update:

We’re pushing close to two decades that the “Mercury Lot” over at 8th & Grand / Adams has been vacant. Now we have some action, as it looks like some units are going to get built on this property. Power connections were recently set up along with construction supplies and equipment have been staged.

Mercury Lot Action Hoboken NJ 1

Mercury Lot Action Hoboken NJ 2

“Unfortunately, it was swiped from under us”

Affordable housing developer outbids city, pays $5M for mercury site

mercury-lot-hoboken-reporter-image.jpgDESIRABLE PROPERTY – After making a successful bid of $5 million for the former mercury site seen here, Frank Raia (left) plans to build a senior facility at the location. Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo (right) also wants a senior facility at the site, and feels it should be provided by way of the city, not Raia, whom he feels will not deliver.

The City Council has been outbid for a plot of formerly contaminated land on Grand Street, losing out to a local developer and council candidate who says he plans to put affordable senior housing there.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took ownership of the land at 720 Grand St. in 1995 after toxic mercury was found under the floorboards. The building had once been used by General Electric to make mercury vapor lamps, then in 1993 was converted by a partnership of artists into artistic residences.

Earlier this year, the City Council bid $4 million to buy the land from the EPA. Mayor David Roberts announced that he hoped to build a centralized public safety facility there, which would include two fire engines, emergency rescue equipment, and hazardous materials equipment for a chemical or biological disaster.

But the city was outbid.

The EPA instead accepted a $5 million bid from Hoboken Excalibur LLC, a firm which has, as one of its partners, local developer and Board of Education member Frank “Pupie” Raia, who has also served on the City Council and hopes to serve again after the May 8 election.

The City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to rescind a $10 million bond that had been enacted last October when they hoped to acquire the parcel.

The decision, which will return only $9,500,000 of the initial sum to the city due to the cost of bonding, came as a result of the EPA rejecting the city’s bid of approximately $4 million earlier in the year.

A spokesman for Raia, who is running against incumbent Michael Russo in the 3rd Ward, said that the developers plan to build affordable senior housing on the site. That site is also in the 3rd Ward.

No further details of the plan were released, except that the age-restricted housing will require residents to be 55 years and older.

Raia’s suggestion mirrors that of his opponent in the race, Russo, who announced last year his desire to see a senior and/or assisted living facility built at the site if the city was able to obtain the land.

Both Russo and Raia claim to have had the idea first.

The situation has raised concerns among other members of the council, such as Councilman-At-Large Ruben Ramos, who cited the city’s original intention to use the site to benefit members of the community. He suggested that the municipality first try to negotiate to buy the property from Raia, then use eminent domain if they have to.

The political divide behind the issue

What began with the city’s acknowledgment of having lost a chance to develop the property for public use, has quickly evolved into an extension of the election wars currently engulfing Hoboken and Hudson County.

A Raia spokesman sent out a statement last week sniping at Russo for allegedly taking credit for the affordable housing component of a different project that Raia is developing at 1118 Adams St.

The statement from Raia, released by Jack Bohrer of Vision Media, said, “Russo is sending out a letter to the people of Hoboken, shamelessly taking credit for the project, something he had absolutely no part in … Now he is going after my vision for the Grand Street site, saying he wants to build a senior center there. Russo is pretending he’s responsible for my work and ideas and hoping the people of the 3rd Ward don’t notice. It’s classic Russo deception and treachery.”

In response to Raia, Russo said in an interview on Thursday, “Pupie Raia is full of empty promises, and has been rejected by the residents of Hoboken for 25 years. He’s a big-time developer, who does not build anything in any community for free. He does it for a profit.” Russo charged that it was not Raia who had built the affordable housing he was referring to, but rather the developers Ursa Tarragon. Ursa Tarragon has partnered with Raia for certain projects in the northwest part of town.

“Raia wants to be a Johnny-come-lately and jump on the bandwagon,” Russo said. “If the man can’t even speak for himself, how is he ever going to represent the 3rd Ward?” Russo was referring to Raia’s choice to have his spokesman field questions from the press rather than doing so himself.

Russo noted that Mayor Roberts has openly endorsed Raia for the 3rd Ward. Roberts has not yet endorsed any other council candidates.

“We all know that Dave Roberts is beholden to developers in the city,” Russo said, “and now he wants us to elect a big developer to the City Council. The residents of the 3rd Ward are not going to allow that to happen.” Bohrer said that Raia has built over 120 affordable housing units in Hoboken and many more outside the city.

The possibility of eminent domain

During Wednesday evening’s City Council meeting, Ramos spoke about the possibility of the city acquiring the land by eminent domain.

He first suggested that the council attempt to negotiate a deal with Raia for a reasonable price in the area of $5 million.

But if that is the case, one might wonder why the city didn’t offer $5 million in the first place.

One source said that a city official accidentally mentioned at a public meeting last year that the city was offering $4 million, thus giving Raia the insight to offer more. This could not be confirmed.

At Wednesday’s meeting, 4th Ward Councilman Christopher Campos agreed with Ramos’ assessment of the situation, saying, “I fully and wholeheartedly believe this should be used for public use. Unfortunately, it was swiped from under us.”

Campos added that eminent domain should also be used to take away neglected property in town, which can then be converted into public space for residents.

In response to the council members’ suggestions, Bohrer, speaking on behalf of Raia, said, “This is another ploy by Russo and Ramos, who always talk about affordable housing but never build any. Unlike Russo and Ramos, [Raia] knows how to get the job done.”

The building, the mercury and the decontamination process

The site was not always so popular.

From 1910 through 1955, GE and the Cooper-Hewlett Electric Company manufactured industrial mercury vapor lighting there.

In 1993 a group of artists, looking to convert the space into live/work lofts, purchased the building only to discover two years later that the structure contained free-flowing liquid mercury below its floorboards, as well as airborne contaminants in 13 of the 16 units.

The building was subsequently declared “unfit for habitation” by the EPA, who relocated the artists and their families while they were examined for toxins. Test results revealed 20 out of the 29 residents, six of whom were children, possessed enough mercury in their systems to cause subtle neurological changes and kidney problems. The factory was completely demolished by the summer of 2003. After conducting a series of tests on the site’s soil, the EPA deemed the area to be “suitable for use by residential populations” in 2004.

In total, the decontamination process cost approximately $35 million, of which $15.5 million was provided by GE and the remaining $20 by the EPA.

The mercury lot was also mentioned on Hoboken411 during City Council meetings on 9/20/2006, 10/4/2006, 3/21/2007 and 4/4/2007.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007 7:27 pm

my mother worked in that bldg. in the 50’s maybe thats why i’m fucked up in the head

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 11:05 pm

[quote comment=”20996″]Would any seniors actually live in a building with this history? unless you’ve already lost your mind?[/quote]

Between the Alzheimer’s and the fact that the cancer would probably take a good 20 years to kill them, I guess they don’t really have much to lose.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 10:05 pm

Would any seniors actually live in a building with this history? unless you’ve already lost your mind?

I gather the city strategy will vote toward st mary hosp becoming the senior housing/assisted living just like jersey city and the st francis gig, although I believe that’s private >>just took a real long time to clear up the numbers and paperwork. it’s coming. I’m no psychic, but its coming.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 3:36 pm

[quote comment=”20473″]dunno how long most seniors stay on waiting lists here but one lady in my building was on a list barely more than a year before getting into columbus tower (or is that columbus park) just last week. she wasn’t even FROM Hoboken just managed to squeeze in…
while i generally like Russo, I have to ask him and Ramos: if there is a private developer planning to do senior housing, then WHY WHY WHY would the City want to seize and BUY the property just to do the SAME THING?[/quote]

How could you “generally like” a guy that has two incomes and lives in affordable housing? While owning a commercial condo and a condo on Monroe Street?

Shouldn’t affordable housing go to people who are poor and more needy?

If Mike Russo owns a Condo he should go live in it. If he cares about the poor he should open up a unit in Church Towers for someone that truly deserves it.

Its just plain greed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 3:31 pm

The EPA has a well-deserved reputation of politically motivated science that stretches from the Hanford nuclear site to right here in Ringwood, New Jersey.

It’s not unusual after this kind of remediation for the EPA to put a stipulation in the deed that says that the land will be capped with concrete and not used for residential purposes. I’d really like to see that here.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x