Several union leaders appeared at the special Zoning Board hearing Thursday night regarding the Neumann Leathers buildings near the Hoboken border.
The Zoning Board is hearing an application by developer Trammel Crow Residential (TCR) for approval to tear down the cluster of former factory buildings sandwiched between Observer Highway, Newark Avenue, and Willow Avenue. They would like to build 251 condominiums, with office and retail space mixed in.
TCR is also proposing a 26,000 square-foot artist building as a giveback.
The old tanneries currently house a mix of artists, professionals, and other “light industrial” users, who say they are working on an alternative development plan that keeps the building intact.
But the building’s owner has contracted with TCR, who wants to raze and rebuild.
Throughout the hearings, TCR has maintained that the site has contamination – including traces of mercury. The developer finished examining all of their professional witnesses last week.
At the next hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 11, the Neumann Leathers Tenants Association, which opposes TCR’s plans, will begin their own expert testimony.
Unions take issue
Representatives from 18 of the county’s trade unions attended the meeting. Michael McCabe, president of the Hudson County Building Trades Union, said the unions were there to make people aware that TCR has not been using local union labor on various projects.
“Be very careful what you’re promised. Get it in writing.” – Michael McCabe
McCabe said TCR used union support to get City Council approvals for the development company to build in Bayonne’s massive Peninsula project. But after getting approvals, McCabe said, TCR “had no interest” in dealing with the unions.
McCabe claimed that TCR used out-of-state non-union labor with only one exception, union pile drivers, only when the company had no other option.
But McCabe was stopped from continuing by newly-re-elected Zoning Board President Dominick Lisa, because he was not addressing specific issues regarding this application for variances.
McCabe closed with, “Be very careful what you’re promised. Get it in writing.”
Rich Murphy, principal at TCR, said the company receives multiple bids on all labor positions and always uses some degree of union labor.
Also during the meeting, Murphy was questioned about the fiscal stability of TCR.
Murphy said that of the several developers selected in Bayonne to build, TCR was the only one whose project is currently underway.
McCabe said that this is because the other developers are using union labor and TCR is saving money by sometimes circumventing the unions.