The Fulop administration is claiming victory following the plaintiffs’ voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit involving a controversial Bergen-Lafayette residential development called Morris Canal Manor.
“While this baseless lawsuit has done a tremendous disservice to our community, it is my hope that residents now hear the full truth with the court’s dismissal so that we can move forward on this important neighborhood improvement project together,” said Mayor Fulop.
The mayoral press release decried “the lawsuit’s efforts to spread misinformation to the public.” It also noted that Ward F Councilman Frank Gilmore had sided with the plaintiffs.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs Morris Canal Redevelopment Area Community Development Corporation, Inc. and its executive director, June Jones, had asked the court to overturn an ordinance passed by the City Council in March amending the Morris Canal Redevelopment Plan to allow for project to move ahead.
The lawsuit alleged that the city planner “failed to explain how the Amendments specifically were consistent with the Master Plan” and “admitted that the Amendments propose a development which is inconsistent with the density, height, and scope of the existing homes surrounding the Property.”
Located on land formerly occupied by the Steel Tech company, the 361 unit mixed use project next to Berry Lane Park is to include five percent “affordable” units; a 22,000-square-foot building housing a basketball court and spaces for other yet-to-be-determined recreational uses; and eight commercial “incubators” for minority-owned startup businesses.
Opponents had raised multiple objections to the project. Chief among them were the project’s size in a neighborhood of one and two family homes and the inclusion of only five percent affordable housing. In 2021, the council adopted a new Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance (IZO) which mandates that new apartment projects allot at least ten percent of their units as affordable.
Opponents also object to using the land for luxury apartments on a site previously designated to become part of Berry Lane Park.
In a response this afternoon, June Jones wrote “After winning round one in a lawsuit about this project located in the heart of the Lafayette neighborhood, Morris Canal filed a second suit, which it voluntarily dismissed because it was satisfied with modifications to the final design and other elements of the project that were made by the developer after he engaged and listened to the community. So, in fact, the lawsuit was not anti-government, but pro-community; and from the perspective of the community, very successful… our voice does matter!”
According to the mayor’s press release, the plaintiffs requested that the case be dismissed after “it was made undeniably clear from day one that the allegations were unfounded and there was zero evidence to support any of the meritless accusations.” In writing to the court last month to request that the case be dismissed, however, plaintiffs’ attorney William Matsikoudis said “My clients’ concerns with the project that triggered this lawsuit have been assuaged.”