The battle over a decaying warehouse in Bergen-Lafayette has added two new chapters in under a week as the current owners claim their proposal to revitalize the land into a mixed-use development is being intentionally stalled by officials.
On December 13, a Clifton-based entity named 125 Monitor Street JC filed a legal complaint against the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) in Hudson County court. The company acquired a 2.2-acre property at the same address in 2019 and says that they have spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to remediate the land and address various legal issues inherited from past ownership.
The current owners of 125 Monitor Street claim in their lawsuit that they submitted an application to the JCRA that touted plans for a school, market, affordable housing, and preservation of the historic building at the property. But their case says that rather than giving the application a good-faith review, the JCRA “returned it without any consideration whatsoever.”
The lawsuit further alleges that the JCRA “refused to even review Plaintiff’s application to be designated as a redeveloper, providing no good faith reason for such refusal.” The case claims that the motivation behind the move stems from the JCRA’s desire to transfer redevelopment rights at the property to an entity called Graffiti 125 LLC so that they can develop the land instead.
Graffiti 125 LLC did indeed enter into a redevelopment agreement with the agency in January 2016 to revitalize the property, but the current owner’s lawsuit claims that the deal has expired. Exhibits attached to the complaint include a letter from Graffiti 125 LLC that offered the current owners $6.5 million for the parcel and a warning about what would happen if they didn’t accept the deal.
“Please be advised that JCRA has already begun taking steps in preparation of filing a condemnation action to take title to the Property,” the letter states.
The owners of 125 Monitor Street claim that they met with the JCRA on November 23 of this year to “try and negotiate a compromise to the proposed takings proceeding.” It was at this meeting that the JCRA’s attorney allegedly told them “that ship has sailed,” with the lawsuit claiming that officials with the JCRA “would not even discuss [their] qualifications to be the designated redeveloper.”
The JCRA did indeed file a lawsuit very late last week looking to condemn the property. The agency is looking to acquire the land for $2.86 million.
While the property was the site of a double stabbing two years ago and also the subject of a 2017 lawsuit stemming from various neglect issues, an independent review by Jersey Digs indicates that previous maintenance violations and other problems at the parcel appear to stem from past ownership.
The latest lawsuit also seeks to challenge the general constitutionality of N.J.S.A 40A:12A-8(f), a state regulation that governs Local Redevelopment and Housing Law. The case claims that the statute “allows public redevelopment agencies to seize property from a ready, willing, and able property owner and turn that property over to an alternate redeveloper without following any standard or providing any reason or explanation for not allowing a person or entity to redevelop its own property.”
The current ownership of 125 Monitor Street is seeking an order from the court “rescinding and declaring void JCRA’s refusal to consider [their] application to redevelop their own property.” The case is also looking to block the JCRA’s attempts to award redevelopment rights at the parcel to Graffiti 125 LLC.