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American Shipper

Alternate visions offered for Bayonne, N.J. terminal

Alternate visions offered for Bayonne, N.J. terminal

Three companies gave presentations Tuesday evening to the Bayonne City Council on how they would be interested in developing a portion of the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne, N.J.

   The presentations by terminal operator Ports America, a consortia led by the Worldwide Group and Shaw Group, and the Fortis Property Group spent several hours outlining how they would like to develop the former army base.

   It was the latest twist in a strange saga that began in September, when Port Authority of New York and New Jersey commissioners voted to acquire a portion of the property called the Maritime District for $50.5 million. The Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA), which is overseeing development of the entire 437-acre base, approved the sale.

   But subsequently, the BLRA was told by its attorney that the sale, might be voidable because the Bayonne meeting where it was approved was not properly advertised. So another vote on the deal is scheduled for Nov. 1.

   However, Bayonne is a cash-strapped city, and some citizens have questioned the $50.5 million price tag, which several developers have said they would be willing to better.

   Bayonne had a $23 million deficit in its last fiscal year because payments from other developers of the Army base have not been released.

   So the city council allowed other companies to make presentations Tuesday night on proposals for the land, though the city council cautioned that the BLRA, not they, had the final say over how the property should be developed.

   Each of the three companies that chose to make presentations had to put a $25 million check or letter of credit in escrow before speaking in order to show their earnest.

   Stephen Edwards, president and chief executive officer of Ports America, said his company was willing to abide with covenants in the sale agreement with the port authority that would prohibit a container terminal.

   Edwards noted that his firm, as well as its affiliates Marine Terminals Corp. and AMPORTS, has broad experience in both port development and the roll-on/roll-off business.

   “This is normal business for us,” he assured the council.

   He said his firm desired to build a ro/ro terminal capable of handling about 200,000 automobiles annually. The company was willing to pay $75 million for the property, and would be able to release $30 million on closing and close on a deal within 60 days.

   Christopher Ragucci, president and CEO of Worldwide Group, said that while his firm was willing to operate a ro/ro terminal, he spent most of his time outlining what he said were the superior economic benefits of a container facility.

   Ragucci suggested that covenants prohibiting a container terminal might be modified through negotiation of other developers who want to build housing near the terminal.

   Ragucci also said earthen berms or concrete walls, low-profile container cranes and other improvements could help make a container compatible with housing on the rest of the former base.

   Akiva Kobre, senior vice president of development of Fortis Group, a Brooklyn-based real estate developer, asked the board to consider whether a maritime use of the property was indeed the best use.

   However, he said a ro/ro facility might be developed inside a building to minimize its impact on the surrounding community.

   Anthony Falcicchio, president of Local 1588 of the International Longshoremen’s Association, which has been a strong backer of a marine terminal at the former base, said his group would like to see a container terminal built at the new site because it would create the largest number of jobs.

   But even a ro/ro facility in Bayonne would be beneficial to his 450 members because it would allow nearby ro/ro operations in Jersey City to be moved to Bayonne and a container operations to be expanded in Jersey City at the existing Global Terminal.

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