“What a long, strange trip this has been.”
That was City Councilman Steve Lipski’s summation of the AMB Warehouse issue during Wednesday’s council meeting after the council voted 6-3 to approve zoning that allows for the proposed warehouse to be built.
The 883,000 square-foot warehouse would be built off Highway 1/9 by the San Francisco-based AMB Company. The facility would be a distribution center for items brought from ports in Newark and Elizabeth.
The council also introduced on its agenda the Hackensack River Edge Redevelopment Plan that would allow 137 acres of land between the river and Highway 1 & 9, which includes the warehouse site, to be developed. The plan will be revisited at the next council meeting on Oct. 10.
The warehouse was controversial because three groups of people wanted different uses for the site. Mayor Jerramiah Healy wanted the warehouse to be built; the county wanted to use the land for a golf course, and residents wanted to see parks.
Lipski voted in favor of the warehouse along with council members Mariano Vega, Mary Spinello, Willie Flood, Viola Richardson, and Michael Sottolano.
Voting against the warehouse were council members Bill Gaughan, Peter Brennan, and Steven Fulop.
The plan is seen as a compromise between those who wanted a warehouse and those who wanted open space.
A number of residents who came to the council meeting brought signs expressing their opinions on the project.
Mayor Jerramiah Healy championed the warehouse project as a boost for the city’s economy, as it will potentially bring in over $1 million per year in tax revenues and 300 jobs for Jersey City residents.
But a number of residents opposed the industrial use of the site, which was once the home of the old PJP landfill and is currently slated for cleanup by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).
These residents wanted the site to become open space with possibly a park and ball fields, while some Hudson County officials saw it as possible golf course.
Healy called the new zoning change for the warehouse “a victory for Jersey City residents and taxpayers alike.”Where to go from here
Robert Cavanaugh, the attorney for AMB and a former Jersey City councilman, said after the meeting that he was happy and relieved that the council gave the go-ahead for the warehouse and that AMB will keep its promise to provide jobs for local residents and also not seek a tax abatement.
“We’re just happy the compromise was made and the council put the faith and trust in us to do the right thing,” said Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh said that the company will be submitting their site plans for the warehouse to the city’s Planning Department in the near future, and will also work with the state to ensure the cleanup of the site.
The approval also allows for AMB to purchase the 54-acre site from the Archdiocese of Newark.
The 54-acre site is part of the 87-acre old PJP Landfill site, with the rest of the land co-owned by Clifton resident Edwin Siegel. Cavanaugh declined to reveal the purchase price, but it is believed it will cost AMB $20 million. Cavanaugh did say that the entire project, including construction and chemical cleanup, will cost over $100 million.
Cavanaugh said any groundbreaking will happen at the earliest in six months, and not until 2009 will the warehouse be completed.
The long strange trip ends
Some residents wished the debate would continue.
Jeannette Rotondo, living a block away from the warehouse site, was disappointed that the council gave the green light to the project.
“They don’t realize the impact this warehouse will have,” said Rotondo. “This will affect our quality of life since this is 24/7 operation.” She said she would rather see a mall or anything but a warehouse in the location.
Paul Catsanodonis, an attorney who lives about a half mile from the site, said that the proposed redevelopment plan is “full of contradictions” and a “Trojan horse” whose only purpose was to accommodate the warehouse and little else. Political maneuvering
The contention over the warehouse saw a variety of maneuvers from all sides. There was Mayor Healy’s full court press to promote the virtues of the project. There were statements from Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise that the site should become a nine-hole golf course.
And Councilman Fulop in August called for Vega and Spinello to abstain from any future voting on the warehouse project due to conflicts of interest because of Spinello’s job at the Jersey City Incinerator Authority and Vega’s job as the Director of Parks in Hudson County. He noted that they are county workers, so obviously would side with the county executive. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com