In a process that took years, spanned three mayors and was led by an urban planner who just won a MacArthur “genius” award based, in part, on those efforts, the City of Newark overhauled its zoning laws in 2015.
It was the first such comprehensive revision in more than 50 years and was widely praised not only for the substance of the new zoning, which was based upon goals of environmental justice and accountable development, but for the open, participatory process by which it was adopted
Recently, in a move that would seem to undermine the well-thought out plan embraced just two years earlier and to contradict its participatory approach, Newark amended its zoning to increase the maximum building height in part of the Ironbound. And it allegedly did so without providing nearby residents the legally required notice. Continue reading LAWSUIT CHALLENGES IRONBOUND UPZONING
Governor Chris Christie might be a very lame duck at this point, with only a little more than a month to go, but as he heads toward the door, he has taken a parting shot at Edward Lloyd, the environmental lawyer who is one of the longest serving members of the Pinelands Commission.
Earlier this year the Trump administration jettisoned environmental rules that would have halted the use of a pesticide that has been shown to damage children’s brains. Pending state legislation that would at least do so in New Jersey hit a road block last week.
Many New Jersey commuters are experiencing a “summer of hell” marked by cancelled and delayed train service due to the deteriorating rail link to New York City. They might want to know why the state has not been able to get its act together to build a badly needed new train tunnel, even while it has been pushing relentlessly to build a mall in the Meadowlands.
Bird’s Eye View Taken from Google Earth of the Pier
View of the Dilapidated Pier
Monarch Towers’ Rendering of Proposed Development
Context of this Case
A battle over whether a developer will be allowed to renege on a promise to provide open space on the Hoboken waterfront was argued before the Appellate Division on February 28.
New Jersey Appleseed’s Renee Steinhagen represents Fund for a Better Waterfront in several related appeals involving the Monarch Towers development.
The dispute concerns whether two 11 -story condominium towers can be built on a nearly two-acre waterfront parcel where the developer promised in 1997 to provide open space, including tennis courts and the final segment of the developer’s Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.
The construction faces fierce public opposition and would violate Hoboken ordinances that prohibit residential development on piers and platforms over the Hudson River. Those ordinances were adopted in December of 2013 in response to Superstorm Sandy, and in conformance with newly adopted federal and state standards to protect communities from flood hazards.
Read below about this case and NJ Appleseed’s work: Ron Hine reports for the Fund for a Better Waterfront.
A lot of attention has been focused on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry crude oil across four western states, damaging the environment and disturbing Native American historical and cultural sites.
Similar battles over proposed pipelines are taking place right here in New Jersey and recent developments will at least delay two of those projects and hopefully allow for more public input on their impact.
The answer lies with the Christie administration and which of several competing options it decides to pursue
Governor Chris Christie’s administration has put off for nearly three years deciding what it should do about the future of healthcare in Newark. But the scheduled sale of the bankrupt Saint Michael’s Medical Center, one of five Newark hospitals, should force a decision.
The outcome of the sale will likely help shape the quality of healthcare that Newark residents receive, according to industry attorneys and analysts. It could also affect the financial stability of all of the city’s hospitals.
State involvement in hospital bankruptcies normally is limited to issues related to operating licenses. But not in this case, for three reasons:
First, the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority, which is chaired by Acting Commissioner of Health Cathleen Bennett, issued tax-exempt bonds for Saint Michael’s that currently total roughly $230 million.
Second, the state also owns another troubled Newark facility — University Hospital, which is facing millions of dollars in annual operating losses for the foreseeable future.
Third, if the state allows the sale of Saint Michael’s it should get a short-term financial shot in the arm. But if were to decide to take over the facility, it could realize a greater payback over a longer period.
Our recent policy articles have asked this question. New Jersey Appleseed is currently involved in a case that is working it’s way through the NJ Court System whereby the answer to this question from a group of concerned citizens in Newark is a decided “no.”
To read the appeal of City of Newark’s Zoning Board of Adjustment’s 13th d(l) use variance for a parking lot at 28 McWhorter Street, filed by Renee Steinhagen on behalf of group of concerned citizens click here.
Re-post from Al Jazerra America | Written by Sharon Adarlo
During the day, parking lots in downtown Newark are jammed with cars belonging to government and corporate office workers. To some observers, the full lots might seem a useful facet of urban life and a sign of a healthy city economy.
But not to everyone. At night and during the weekends, the surface lots are desolate, quiet stretches of black and cracked asphalt. Repeat this scene in other parts of this city’s downtown and you end up with many residents and urban planners complaining they are a form of urban blight. They sap the vitality of an area on the cusp of major gentrification, critics say.
There is also an economic cost: The dead spaces that cars take up don’t generate nearly enough in taxes for Newark’s coffers, and most of all, they might encourage crime. Some residents don’t feel safe around the empty lots late at night.
“I have been here for more than 20 years, and [crime] has been increasing. The synergy there is that with the crime increasing, so are the surface parking lots,” said Madeline Ruiz, an architect. “I used to feel safe.”
Nor are Newark residents alone. Many cities across the U.S. are also confronted by landscapes filled with similar ugliness, posing problems with stormwater runoff and acting as heat sinks.
Miami and Detroit suffer the same problem, says Streetblogs, a website devoted to transportation issues. This year, Rochester, New York, won the blog’s Golden Crater award, which recognizes the city with the most excessive surface parking. An aerial view of Rochester’s core shows a patchwork of blacktop and islands of buildings.
A study from the University of Connecticut compared three U.S. cities with modest parking lot growth and three with triple-digit percentage increases. It found that lot-dominated cities suffered economically. One example was Hartford, Connecticut, which loses $50 million a year thanks to its lots.
“Surface parking lots are holes in the urban fabric,” said Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA and an expert on parking issues in cities. “They don’t produce as much for the economy. The parking lot barely employs a few people compared to a restaurant. A parking lot doesn’t draw anybody to downtown.”
The result is a less healthy city, argue Ruiz and her husband, Dave Robinson, also an architect. They say the spaces are the opposite of what should go there: lively shops and apartments. And having fewer eyes on the street creates more crime-ridden areas.
Newark was a nominee for the Golden Crater this year, and it’s not hard to see why. In the vicinity of Newark’s Penn Station, “there are more than 20 acres of underutilized sites primarily being used as surface parking,” according to the city master plan.
In the latest flashpoint of the parking wars in Newark, a proposed lot has residents up in arms because it already has other parking lots on all four sides. It is on Bruen Street in the Ironbound area, a densely packed neighborhood known for its large population of Brazilian immigrants and Portuguese cafes.
The owners of the property and the person contracted to run the future lot need a variance from the city zoning board. A building on the property was damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and was subsequently demolished.
“If you do any other business, it won’t work,” said Makram Demian, who owns the property with his brother Maher Demian. They argue it is logical to put in the 73-space lot because it’s surrounded by other parking. “It’s already decided by the neighborhood.” The zoning board has repeatedly delayed hearing their application, but a decision may be reached next month.
A request to talk to members of the zoning board was denied. Angelo Cifelli Jr., the board’s attorney, said members will not comment on a case that is pending. Repeated requests to the city press office were not met. Nor were queries to the planning and the housing and economic development departments.
When asked about parking lots at an unrelated event earlier this month, Mayor Ras Baraka said, “We are going to build up and not across. We are going to look at stormwater runoff.” During his election campaign earlier this year, he told concerned Ironbound residents that he sympathized with their concerns.
Newark’s 2012 master plan calls for redevelopment of surface parking lots. New construction projects should get structured parking underground or aboveground, with stacked garages and ground-floor retail. A Whole Foods is slated for Broad Street in a few years. At Broad and Market Streets, the busiest intersection in the city, a mixed-use retail, residential and hotel development is imminent.
Rather than merely serve suburban commuters, Shoup said, the city can encourage landowners to redevelop wasted spaces by putting a hefty tax on them. “It’s just a nudge. It tells landlords it’s probably time to build,” he said.
Eran Ben-Joseph, the head of MIT’s department of urban studies and planning, said improved aesthetics could help surface parking lots. “They are not going away too soon,” he said. “If we design them the right way, they can be an asset.” He has proposed green parking, lots that use innovative ways of managing stormwater and adding vegetation.
Meanwhile, residents like Robinson are committed to fighting the scourge. “These parking lots are a cancer,” he said. “And they are spreading very quickly.”
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L-2375-11. Victor A. Afanador argued the cause for appellants/cross-respondents James Farina and City of Hoboken (Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC, attorneys; Mr. Afanador, of counsel and on the briefs; Marissa L. Quigley, on the briefs).
Charles X. Gormally argued the cause for appellants/cross-respondents Mile Square Taxpayer Association 2009, Inc. and Gina DeNardo (Brach Eichler, L.L.C., attorneys; Mr. Gormally, of counsel and on the briefs; Sean A. Smith, on the briefs).