Today, in a major win for community activists, a Superior Court judge put a halt to the controversial Bergen-Lafayette project known as Morris Canal Park Manor.
The lawsuit had been brought by The Morris Canal Redevelopment Area Community Development Corporation, Inc. (“MCRACDC”) and its executive director, June Jones, against the city of Jersey City and the city’s Planning Board and Planning Division. The plaintiffs asked the court to stop the construction of the 17-story 420-unit luxury high-rise in the neighborhood characterized by small, four- and five-story buildings.
Ruling from the bench, Anthony V. D’Elia found that the Planning Board and City Council had failed to justify major changes to the Morris Canal Redevelopment Plan and sent the matter back to the Planning Board and City Council for reconsideration. Judge D’Elia will also be issuing a written decision.
The project would have replaced a dilapidated factory on Communipaw Avenue known as “Steel Tech.” Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson championed the plan and argued that the developer had agreed to “community givebacks” including a recreation center and office space for minority business enterprises to compensate for the project’s deviation from the Plan.
The plaintiffs argued the land should become part of Berry Lane Park and that any givebacks were insufficient.
Speaking of today’s win on behalf of the community, Jones said, “I am ecstatic … I believe that justice was served … I believe in the process that took place.” The ruling, she said, serves notice that “the community will not be ignored. … Negotiating away affordable housing is not real community benefits.”
The Jersey City Times has reached out to Councilman Robinson for comment.
The decision represents the second win for activists in five days. Last Thursday, a court threw out Jersey City’s affordable housing ordinance, finding that Jersey City officials had violated the state’s Municipal Land Use Law.
The MCRACDC and Jones were represented by the law firm Matsikoudis & Fanciullo and by Renée Steinhagen of the New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center.