The Powerhouse ripple effect Owner of Morgan St. building wants to demolish; Councilman disagrees

Last week, local property owner Bob Lehrer, the principal owner of the 1905 Butler Brothers warehouse at 350 Morgan St., said he wants to demolish a western part of his building as soon as possible.

Lehrer claims that a section of the building on the corner of Morgan and Warren streets has shifted about 7 inches toward the street.

Lehrer is suing the city because the Planning Board has not acted on his application to let him convert his building into condominiums with a maximum building height of 550 feet, or approximately 55 stories. He filed the application 1.5 years ago.

Lehrer’s building is being considered by city government as one of the sites to relocate the electric transformers that power the PATH train system, located above ground on the west side of the old Hudson and Manhattan Powerhouse building. The building, on Washington Blvd. in Downtown Jersey City, would then be a focal point for a new community.

City officials told the Jersey Journal recently that Lehrer has only communicated with the city about his building after he encountered resistance to this plans for development.

City Councilman Steven Fulop, who represents Downtown Jersey City, is also skeptical about Lehrer’s alarms.

But Lehrer said he doesn’t want his building to collapse and create a danger to himself and others.

“I don’t have any authority to close the sidewalk or the street near this part of the building, and if [the city] were smart, they would do something before it’s too late,” Lehrer said.Only concerned for the public

Lehrer said a periodic inspection of his building done over a month ago found severe cracks that he had not seen before.

The inspection done by Allied Engineering of Franklin Lakes found the building, to be in “danger of imminent collapse,” he said.

He said he sent a letter to Construction Code Official Ray Meyer asking him to come check the building. Lehrer said Meyer then sent him a letter back a week later asking for an engineering report, and saying that Lehrer has to go to the Planning Board to get approval for demolition.

Meyer could not be reached for comment last week.

Lehrer was also upset at an engineer the city sent. Lehrer says the engineer told Lehrer that the building was sturdy and “could hold a party.”

Lehrer said that construction in neighboring blocks may cause further problems.

At the 111 First St. site, one block from his building, there are plans to build a proposed 1.2-million-square-foot, 52-story tower. And Toll Brothers is planning a three-tower project to be built on Bay Street, currently being contested in litigation by a neighborhood group.

“What happens when they start driving piles for those projects?” Lehrer said. “The vibration could create more problems.”

Lehrer also noted that the city closed off an area of Warren Street on the east side of the building after several bricks fell from the eighth floor of the building. Councilman agrees with city

Councilman Fulop last week weighed in on Lehrer’s situation.

“The city under no circumstances should allow that building to be altered or torn down,” Fulop said. “It is a historic building, one of the key buildings in the Powerhouse Arts District.”

Fulop said the city has worked with Lehrer on the issue of the relocation of the transformer equipment from the Powerhouse, but said Lehrer’s actions in this matter have made him a “litigious and difficult individual to deal with.”

Fulop also doesn’t buy Lehrer’s claims that his building is in danger of collapsing, bringing up the observations of the city’s construction office finding there is “no validity.” Comments on the story can be sent to


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