Bayonne mayor: N.Y.-N.J. Port Authority threatens quality of life
The mayor of the waterfront city of Bayonne, N.J., blasted the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey over actions he said, “whether by design or unintentional, threaten the fiscal health, redevelopment and quality of life of our city of 65,000 residents.”
Mayor Terrence Malloy made the remarks in a letter to New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine in which he asked the state to “freeze all port authority actions affecting the City of Bayonne” until the agency assures the city “impacts from these actions will be addressed,” and until the agency drops a lawsuit against the city’s redevelopment authority.
Malloy inherited his job when Corzine appointed former Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs last fall.
Doria, who was mayor of Bayonne in 1998 to 2007, helped the city acquire a former army base, the Military Ocean Terminal-Bayonne (MOTBY), in 2001. He pushed for mixed-use development of the 430-acre tract, with luxury housing and marine terminals, but so far little has been built.
A deal by the port authority to buy a portion of MOTBY for $50 million and turn it into a roll-on/roll-off terminal fell apart last year because the meeting where the sale by Bayonne’s redevelopment agency was declared invalid due to violating New Jersey open meeting law. The city subsequently sold the same plot of land to the private terminal company Ports America, when it offered $40 million more for the same land than the port.
The port authority has sued Bayonne and the redevelopment agency for reneging on the deal, which Malloy said is a “wholly unfounded lawsuit” in his letter to Corzine.
The port authority “intends to acquire the property to construct and operate the same auto terminal facility that a capable private sector firm has now contracted to undertake,” Malloy says. “Surely there must be a better use for scarce agency dollars.”
Malloy also complained the port authority failed to consult Bayonne on plans to convert the nearby 119-acre Northeast Auto Terminal, which is located in both Bayonne and the neighboring town of Jersey City, into a container terminal capable of handling 500,000 containers per year. The mayor said he also understands the port authority may purchase the adjacent Global Marine Terminal.
Malloy said the port authority should provide assurances that construction and operation of the proposed terminal would not adversely affect a nearby cruise terminal in Bayonne or a large mixed-use development that the town’s redevelopment agency is building on the former army base.
“Traffic, pollution, noise, security, hours of operation and other impacts on these two important projects and on the residents of Bayonne must be addressed,” he said.
On a third issue, Malloy also said his city was not consulted when the port authority sent condemnation letters to property owners near the marine terminals “in blatant disregard of a Bayonne local economic development initiative.”
“Their displacement will cause significant local tax and job losses,” he said, adding that one company was in the process of expanding.
Meanwhile, an attorney and former municipal judge, Patrick Conaghan, who announced earlier this month that he will run for the mayor’s job in November, said he would consider any proposals to create more maritime use of the former army base.
The plans to build luxury housing at the site were a “disaster” he said, both because of the current housing slump and because the increased residential development will require additional municipal services. He thinks industrial use of the property would have supplied more tax revenues and jobs.
But he admitted it might not be possible to reverse residential development of the property because of deals already entered into by the redevelopment authority.
According to the Jersey Journal, a local newspaper, officials from the port authority, including Deputy Executive Director Susan Bass Levin, met with Malloy and officials from the agency’s redevelopment agency. ' Chris Dupin