107 New York Avenue Sues Jersey City Over Development Rejection

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107 New York Avenue The Heights Jersey City
Plans to adaptively reuse and expand an industrial building at 107 New York Avenue were denied by the Zoning Board earlier this year. Image via Google Maps/Street View.

The battle to redevelop a warehouse in The Heights has officially spilled into the courtroom, as the owners of the half-acre parcel have filed a lawsuit seeking a new hearing before the city’s zoning board.

MJSMS LLC, owners of a three-story brick building at 107 New York Avenue, sued Jersey City’s Zoning Board in Hudson County court on October 19. The company, owned by two Brooklyn-based investors, went before the board back in May with a proposal looking to adaptively reuse and expand their current building into a six-story multi-family development with 75 residential units and various amenities.

107 New York Avenue Jersey City Sues City
The proposed plan would expand their current building into a six-story multi-family development with 75 residential units and various amenities. Rendering by MVMK Architecture.

The developers claim in their lawsuit that the city’s planning division reviewed their application and determined they demonstrated a need for several zoning variances. The development requested exceptions from the board for residential use from the current industrial, one for maximum height and another for maximum stories, and two more related to minimum driveway aisle width and maximum curb cut.

During a May 26 hearing, the developers say they presented three expert witnesses that included an architect, a professional engineer, and a civil and traffic engineer to support their case. They claim the zoning board also requested the opinion of a city planner named Mallory Clark who “opined, consistent with [the developer’s] experts, that the project should be approved and that the applicant had met the requirements for the granting of variances.”

The zoning board voted 4-3 in favor of the application but because a supermajority vote of 5-2 or better is required to approve the use variance, the application was denied. The developer’s suit alleges that they were not given a fair shake during the hearing, specifically pointing to the participation of board member Kate Donnelly.

The case claims Donnelly, who was one of the three votes against the project, is “a past or present member of the local neighborhood group Riverview Neighborhood Association, which was the primary organization in opposing the project.” The lawsuit additionally says that Ms. Donnelly “lives in close proximity to the project” and “had a conflict of interest which should have precluded her from participating in the hearing.”

The developers also take issue with another board member named Chester Rothman getting “bounced out of Zoom” during the meeting, which was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. Their case claims that Rothman was “not present throughout the entire application to hear and consider the evidence being offered.”

A spokesperson for Jersey City declined to weigh in on the case, citing their policy of not commenting on open litigation. Jersey Digs has reached out to the Riverview Neighborhood Association regarding the allegations.

The lawsuit says the owners of 107 New York Avenue made a request to the city’s planning department for reconsideration of their application but were denied in July. They call the zoning board’s rejection “an abuse of discretion” and seek to invalidate the resolution of denial.

The developers are also seeking a new hearing before the zoning board without the participation of Board member Donnelly, wishing to include a substitute member to partake in the proceedings.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Jersey City building department has always been corrupt. You have to make alot of noise for the city officials to respond even if you have to take them to court. Maybe the two Brooklyn owners refused to rub the building officials back if you now what I mean.

  2. I really hope this project does go ahead as is… it’s a good looking building and with the set backs won’t feel anymore out of place than the trolley house building. Bring some quality to that run down block!

  3. There needs to be an opposition to the opposition. Thats is, there needs to be some sort of community group that opposes the anti-development contingent. I believe a majority of people in the Heights, if polled, would be for the last building proposal of 107 NYA which in my view is sensible, aesthetic, and a major upgrade over the dilapidated eyesore that currently exists.

  4. I agree, RNA is running rampant but in reality represents a small number of residents who refuse any change and do everything in order to keep the neighborhood in semi-rundown state i guess to keep the taxes low.

  5. RNA is a quasi City agency with zero governance. They never present a profession to back up they “opinions” and are against any development. Way too much power in the hands of incompetent people. Developer should name them in his suit. They need to spend a little money to understand the impact. Good luck.

  6. @Den- The Heights is most definitely not in a semi-rundown state. In fact construction of all sorts has been booming for the past two or three years. It’s also not about keeping taxes low. It’s about keeping the building heights low. Some neighborhood groups have this irrational fear of “change” as if what they are protecting is a historical faubourg of Paris when in reality most of the homes are as plain as the day is long, or as nondescript as a dumpy ass Bayonne box.

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