N.Y.-N.J. Port Authority, Bayonne argue port land sale in court
A dispute over who should be the rightful owner of a 153-acre piece of waterfront property in the Port of New York and New Jersey was heard in Jersey City, N.J., by a state court judge Wednesday.
State Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri heard arguments from attorneys from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Agency (BLRA) about the land, which is located on the former Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne on the Hudson River.
A port authority spokesman said Olivieri did not immediately make a judgment in the matter, which has the agency at odds not only with Bayonne, but one of its largest tenants, Ports America.
In September, the BLRA agreed to sell the land to the port authority for $50.5 million.
In that deal port authority also agreed to a covenant that restricted use of the land so it could be used for roll-on/roll-off operations, but not as a container terminal. Bayonne wanted that restriction because it believes container operations are incompatible with other development at former Military Ocean Terminal, which will include luxury housing and retail stores.
But after the BLRA and port authority reached a deal, several other developers approached the BLRA, offering more money for the land.
Eventually, the BLRA agreed to sell the land in December to Ports America for $90 million, which also operates a container terminal on port authority land in Newark. Like the port authority, it agreed to use the Bayonne land only for ro/ro operations.
Bayonne said the earlier meeting where it approved the sale to the port authority was invalid because it was not properly advertised in accordance with a state “open meetings” law.
The port authority filed a lawsuit in saying the BLRA was breaching an earlier “signed, approved, and recorded contract” to sell it the same tract.
It also named Ports America in that lawsuit saying it and several other developers who had offered competing bids “knew there was a valid contract between the port authority and the BLRA, induced the BLRA to breach the contract by offering more money for the property than the port authority had contracted to pay.”
According to the Jersey City Journal, the attorney for the port authority argued that if the BLRA wanted to break its contract, it should have gone to court.
The newspaper said the BLRA attorney argued that state law gave the Bayonne agency to review its past actions and change them if it felt they were inappropriate.