Subject: Zoning with no balls. Reward harassing NYC landlord and destroy an arts district
110 and 111 First St. - Towers?
City close to settling with real estate mogul,
may forgive millions of $$$ in fines
Reporter staff writer 06/23/2006
A legal settlement is apparently in the works
between the owner of 111 First St. and Jersey
City government that could allow the landlord to
build luxury apartment towers and escape millions
of dollars of fines.
Lloyd Goldman, the owner of the former artists'
residences at 110 and 111 First St., has a
lawsuit pending against the city for $100 million
for stopping his intended demolition of the one
million square foot 111 First St. building in
order to build new housing on the site.
At the same time, Goldman has to contend with
over $70 million in fines levied by the city's
Fire Department for various building code violations.
City Council President Mariano Vega said on
Friday that the City Council at their next
meeting this coming Wednesday may approve a
resolution for the two parties to drop any
litigation between them and come to a settlement.
What the settlement would entail
Vega said the settlement would call for
amendments to the city's Powerhouse Arts District
(in which both properties are situated) that
would allow for three 40-plus story towers to be
built, with two on the 110 First St. property and
one on the 111 First St. and other measures.
The city's top lawyer, Bill Matsikoudis, and the
attorney for 111 First St. owner Dan Horgan, both
declined comment last week because there is
ongoing mediation regarding the legal disputes
between the two parties.
Mayor Jerramiah Healy said he couldn't comment on
a possible settlement because of the ongoing mediation.
However, some residents and politicians in recent
months have had private discussions with
Matsikoudis about a possible settlement. Some of
them are speaking up against it.
Also, Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop on
Thursday addressed questions and concerns on the
future of 110 and 111 First St. at a meeting of
the recently formed Powerhouse Arts District
Neighborhood Association (PADNA).
Vega: Fines would be forgiven
Vega has been privy to the negotiations, which
have taken place since late last year, according
to various sources.
Vega said the settlement would call for
amendments to the Powerhouse Arts District to
allow Goldman to build the towers, since current
zoning prohibits such height.
"This has to come to an end sometime soon.
There's too money and too much time being spent
on this issue," said Vega. "But I think there's a
settlement that will be beneficial to all sides."
Vega said the settlement would call for fines to
be forgiven, for a 30 percent discount on any
luxury apartments in the towers if they were
built to accommodate artists, and at least a
million dollars to be paid to the city's
Affordable Housing Trust Fund, as well as
affordable housing units to be built within the towers.
He also said that at Mayor Healy's request, a
"world-class architect" would be retained by Goldman
to design the towers.
When asked about his reaction to the settlement
idea, Vega said that this is what is best for the city.
"At the end of the day, I know there will be
displeasure especially from the residents who
live in the Powerhouse Arts District," he said,
"but I have to look out for all the residents not
just a narrow band of people."
A Powerhouse of frustration and anger
Charles Kessler has lived in Downtown Jersey City
with his wife since 1982. Kessler has been
involved in the Jersey City arts scene for over
20 years and has worked with city planning to
create what is now the Powerhouse Arts District (see sidebar).
He says he would not like to see the end of an
area that could be a showcase for the city.
"The city should be defending their zoning," said
Kessler. "The thing that bothers me is that the
Powerhouse Arts District will be thrown out the
window, and it is thriving now."
Kessler cited new residents moving into the
recently opened buildings in the district, such
as 140 Bay St. and 150 Bay St., as well as two
art galleries. Also, there are future projects
approved by the Planning Board for the area.
Another major concern is that allowing Goldman to
build the towers would send a signal to other
developers who are planning to build in the
district that they should also be allowed to
build highrises instead of complying with the zoning.
Kessler said much of what he has learned about
the pending settlement has been from Matsikoudis,
with Kessler coming away frustrated whenever he
tried to impress upon Matsikoudis the need to save the district.
"There were two one-hour conversations and
several informal conversations, and it seemed to
me when we were talking, that he was practicing
his arguments for court," said Kessler. "I would
tell him 'Bill, you are not listening.' " But
Kessler conceded that Matsikoudis may have his
hands tied by Mayor Healy and by the lawyers for
Goldman. He complimented him for beating Goldman
in court last year when Goldman was pushing to get 111 First St.
Powerhouse neighborhood organization
They may have only moved into the Powerhouse Arts
District in the last year, but the residents
there are making themselves known to the larger community.
They have formed the Powerhouse Arts District
Neighborhood Association (PADNA), with Rich Tomko
as their president.There are 90 active members of the PADNA.
There has been $75-$100 million of private
capital invested in the district in the last three years.
Tomko, who lives with his wife in the Morgan
Lighthouse building at 143 Morgan St., led a
PADNA meeting that took place on Thursday at the
Nobis Art Gallery on First Street.
At the meeting, about 30 members of the PADNA
were in attendance to question Ward E City
Councilman Steven Fulop about the proposed
settlement with Goldman. Fulop said that the
feedback he was getting from them would be
relayed to Matsikoudis and Vega in a morning
meeting on Friday.
Carrie Craft-Chu and her husband Robert moved
into 140 Bay St. in November. Craft-Chu, when
hearing about the settlement, uttered the prevailing
sentiment, "That's sucks."
She suggested that there should be litigation
against the city by the residents.
The couple later said they may consider moving
out, since they were attracted to the Powerhouse
Arts District by the lack of highrise buildings,
the arts element, and the cobblestone streets.
Jill Edelman, an architect who also lives in 140
Bay St., said after the meeting that a legal fund
has been forming for possible future litigation.
Many residents came to a consensus that they will
appear at the council meeting this coming
Wednesday to speak out against the settlement.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sidebar Powerhouse Arts District in jeopardy
The Powerhouse Arts District is 10 blocks of
historic warehouses that have been designated as
an arts and entertainment district, plus two more
adjoining blocks. The City Council approved the district in October
The district is designated to be a 24-hour,
pedestrian-friendly environment with loft-style
condos and rental units, restaurants, clubs,
galleries, theaters and of course work/live spaces for artists.
The district is bound approximately by Marin,
Washington, Second and Morgan streets.
The current redevelopment plan calls for height
limits of approximately 12 to 14 stories. Ten
percent of all new residential units in the
district are required to be affordable for low
and moderate-income artists. About 12 percent of
all ground floor space has to be set aside for art galleries.
©The Hudson Reporter 2006
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