At Tuesday's City Council caucus, Ward C Councilmember Richard Boggiano griped that ongoing construction in the area of Magnolia, Summit and Sip Avenues has unleashed the city’s rats. He called on the city Health Department to take action. 

Paul Bellan-Boyer, city health officer, said he’s aware of other locations where rats have appeared and that remedial work is ongoing. He said his staff will be “actively looking” at the Journal Square locations mentioned by Boggiano.

Bellan-Boyer may have more rat work ahead if all of the projects under consideration move forward.

The council slated a closed session for September 11 at 5 p.m. to discuss the first phase of the Bayfront redevelopment project, a 95-acre tract bounded by Rt. 440 to the west, the Hackensack River to the east, Kellogg Street to the south and the Culver Avenue interchange with Rt. 440 to the north, with 70 acres designated for development and 25 acres for public and/or open space.

Bayfront Development Partners LLC, a joint venture of Pennrose Holdings LLC and Omni Bayfront Jersey City LLC, are seeking a 30-year tax exemption to build a 6-story structure with 210 residential units, of which 35% are to be “affordable,” 52 parking garage spaces and adjacent surface spaces plus “some commercial space which may include a technology learning center, day care center and credit union.” The proposed tax exemption will terminate unless construction begins within two years of the city’s adoption of an ordinance granting all required approvals, including a project labor agreement. The city would get an annual service charge estimated at $318,347 in the first year of the project.

Also slated for discussion at the closed session is whether Redevelopment Area Bonds would be issued to finance the project and contract negotiations related to the project’s financing.

Other real estate matters focused on Downtown now pending council action are proposed revisions to the Newport Redevelopment Plan, the Morris Canal Redevelopment Plan and Liberty Harbor North Redevelopment Plan.

The Newport modifications would update boundaries, modernize permitted uses and refresh parking standards, the owners’ attorney Victor Herlinsky advised city planners in a June 29 letter to the city. Newport would look to “add more commercial and other modern non-residential uses to the residential, regional commercial, commercial office and waterfront commercial districts,” all of which would “help enable redevelopment of the west parking garage near the mall, enhance connectivity with the neighborhood across Marin Boulevard and enable additional recreational uses (such as marinas).”

The Morris Canal Redevelopment Plan changes pitched by Mecca Realty Properties would provide for a new Mixed Use-F zone which would include properties now zoned for industrial and Mixed Use B at the intersection of Grand Street and Johnston Avenue now occupied by a car wash business. The new zoning designation would allow affordable housing, a widening part of Grand Street, a 6-story height maximum for new buildings and additional uses including health clubs, retail sales, restaurants and breweries/distilleries.

For Liberty Harbor North, developer Peter Mocco proposes “an overall improvement that would create a townhouse neighborhood with a greatly expanded central park as its center piece. Eliminated are the M-Class slab buildings that extended 200 feet in length and crowded the streets and cast long shadows. In their place (would be) rows of classic townhouses that hide the parking and form attractive walkable streets. Four towers are planned on four of the seven blocks, all of which front the expanded central park and will blend in to the neighborhood.” Mocco says the improvements “do not increase the permitted unit density nor the square foot maximum.”

Also on the docket was a $27,000 tax credit owed to companies connected with billionaire landowner Paul Fireman.

The council grappled with a resolution proposing to cancel 2015 through 2017 real estate taxes with accruals of interest and fees on certain parcels at Chapel and Linden Avenues listed as owned by WA Golf Company LLC, also known as Liberty National Golf Club, co-founded by Paul Fireman.

According to the resolution, drafted by city tax assessor Ed Toloza, a chain of events leading to the city’s miscue began in February 2013 when three lots of the golf property were merged into a single lot, as reflected by a consolidation deed filed with the Hudson County Register and by the city tax assessor creating the new lot and canceling out the three prior lots on the city tax books.

But, for some unknown reason, one of those three old lots remained as a “taxable lot item” and only came to light when the city mistakenly placed a tax lien on that property following a tax sale held December 15, 2015, covering erroneous 2015 through 2017 taxing years and in the approximate amount of $27,416.14 ….”

Now the city is being asked to “credit all monies and/or refund plus any other penalties as applicable as a result of this cancelation.”

“There has to be some technology to catch this,” said Council President Joyce Watterman.

Toloza responded that the city was using the system “prescribed by the state.”

On a related front, Watterman said the city needed to do more rigorous checking to “make sure that all the new buildings going up around the city are being assessed properly.” She said constituents have been emailing her and her colleagues contending that “the value of improvements” made to a property aren’t being “updated,” as reflected in property assessments.

If that’s the case, she said, that means the city isn’t getting the full amount of tax revenues for those properties which, in turn, means that the cost of paying for municipal services isn’t being fairly shared among all residents.

“We want to make sure it’s fair for everyone, particularly the people in the city’s south end,” Watterman said.

She added that the council should, from now on, receive “quarterly” updates outlining how assessments on new developments are being adjusted.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...