Lawsuit Seeks to Toss Jersey City’s Demolition Moratorium

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bayonne box jersey city
A row of “boxes” in Jersey City. Photo by Darrell Simmons/Jersey Digs. 

Late last month, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop issued an executive order that instituted a six-month freeze on the acceptance of demolition permit applications for any 1-4 family structures in all of the city’s neighborhoods. While some hailed the move as a way to preserve the city’s historic properties, others argued the order hurt property owners and represented an overreach.

The inevitable pushback against the order arrived courtesy of a lawsuit slapped against the city by four property owners. Filed in Hudson County Court on Wednesday, the case names just the city as the defendant and argues that the executive order is “null and void” and “exceeds the authority of the Mayor.”


Specifically, the lawsuit says Fulop’s order violates N.J.S.A. 40:55D-90b, which reads that “no moratoria on applications for development or interim zoning ordinances shall be permitted except in cases where the municipality demonstrates on the basis of a written opinion by a qualified health professional that a clear imminent danger to the health of the inhabitants of the municipality exists.” Because the executive order was not based on a written opinion of a health professional, the plaintiffs argue it is “unenforceable and invalid.”

The plaintiff companies that filed the case against Jersey City include several notable developers with projects in the works. The first, John and MaryAnn LLC, has developments in West Side, Greenville, and The Heights in their pipeline and additionally claims in the lawsuit that they own properties at 8 Terrace Avenue, 104 Terhune Avenue, 223 South Street, and 101 Laidlaw Avenue that they plan to develop into smaller two-family homes.


Another plaintiff in the case, VFC Developers, is currently constructing 54 Graham Street and owns land at 95 Hancock Avenue, 210 Congress Street, 133 Pearsall Avenue, and 115 Bleecker Street. Two other companies, 228 Sherman Avenue LLC and A B Cruz Construction, both also say they have two-family homes planned for their land that have been derailed by the order.

The order itself applies to all 1-4 family homes in the city that are structurally sound, even if they are vacant. Fulop’s tweet about the order justified the freeze by claiming that “we’re losing many of our great/old homes + being replaced w/the architectural marvel known as ‘The Bayonne Box,’” which is characterized as a housing style that accommodates cars by setting a home, sometimes a multi-family one, back from the street to allow for a small private driveway.

Bayonne Box-type homes have been popping up in neighborhoods like The Heights in recent years, a concern that was brought up by residents during a recent Ward D meeting. In addition to the order, Mayor Fulop said that modifications will likely be coming to the city’s R-1 zoning later this year that “will make some changes to no longer encourage the Bayonne Box-style home and the curb cut that it allows.”

Despite the lawsuit, Jersey City doesn’t appear to be backing down from the Bayonne Box fight. Spokesperson Hannah Peterson said in a statement that “as we have continued to explain to developers and residents alike, the demolition executive order puts a temporary moratorium on demolition permits until the City Council can rework the existing ordinance, a process that will likely take two months. These are changes that will protect the character of our neighborhoods and is something we (are) firmly siding with residents on correcting.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. The cookie cutter box 2/3 family is disgusting. It is cheap to build and has flooded jersey city. As the older jersey city crowd moves on 2/3 family box “developers” have picked off these properties for nothing and RE built for nothing and made a killing. Nothing against anyone making money but enough is enough. Time to move onto other areas of NJ. Last thing we need are big beautiful towers sitting next to ugly $200,000 piles of crap. And here’s the worst.. send any of these “developers” (awful term because that’s not what they are) a property they’ll look at the numbers and say oh no that’s way too expensive to build what we want. Why? Because it’s a cheap formula.. buy the land for a steal build the building for less than $200,000 sell it for $700,000. Same building same formula same thing all over Jersey City. Now some of them are nice glass facade etc. but the old ones have to go and the cheap bastards building them don’t have the right to call themselves developers get rid of them too. Finally! Go knock on a door of any of the old ones with the running paint facade or the new ones and see all the problems these buyers have with them. It’s a joke it’s got to go.

    • I can understand the dissatisfaction with the box homes being constructed all throughout every neighborhood. I actually just had one built for my family last year by a local builder. Having gone through the experience, I think the problem is more of a zoning and architectural problem rather than it is with builders building similar style homes. The builders are trying to break away from the same typical front facade but due to current zoning restrictions, it becomes difficult to really break away from the norm, and I have tried – it’s complex and takes a long time.

      Also, I wish it would still cost $200,000 to build a typical “box home” nowadays as it used to over 10 years ago. The only reason I know is because during my process of having our home built, I had the builder we hired show me his expenses and thankfully he was quite transparent because he did not want us to feel like he was hiding anything from us. His current cost of construction (in 2017, at least) was approximately $305K on a standard 20×65 2 family house. I didn’t do anything extravagant besides add fancier kitchen cabinets (which we paid the difference from the allowance price), light fixtures, and sound proofing between floors (we paid the difference from allowances). The builder quoted us a price slightly higher than his cost to build. For the work his company put it filing permits, passing inspections, timely work, etc, I think over a span of 6-7 months, he at least deserved that much, you know. We’ve not a problem yet and if we do, we have our 10 year warranty that will help us along.

      My point is, yes, it’s much more reasonable to go out and pay approximately $400K to buy a home in today’s market and pay a random builder $350K-$385K rather than buy for today’s insanely high prices. I’ve done my research on this to make sure I can analyze ups and downs before we made such an investment. I understand why so many of these builders and investors flooding our city are doing exactly that. Do I agree with it, not necessarily. But as you said, nothing against anyone making money and working. I think Zoning has to address this issue and cause change rather than allowing for the same things to happen while simultaneously approving for huge towers to be built standing alongside 2 story traditional homes…

  2. Sue your hearts content . Once they change the ordinance which will predate your suit, You and your curb cuts won’t be welcome. Think renovation not prefab. Good luck with that

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