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Update on Elm Street Project

Discussions About Water Stadium Lease with the Board of Ed; Youth Center Update

1/22/18 Caucus 

PERTH AMBOY – Three individuals involved in the Gerdau Ameristeel Project: Glen Stock of Stock Development Group, Steve Barnes from Catalyst Development Group, and Joseph Hanrahan of Hammer Land Engineering talked about this project that has been going on for the last 18 months.

Glen Stock stated, “We acquired 90 acres of this property. There’s 1.3 million square feet of warehouse space. Environmental problems had to be addressed. There was historic fill and slag. At the start of the remediation, asbestos was taken out. This site is in the M2 Zoning. Annie Hindenlang and her staff asked us to bring amenities to the residents in that area.”

One of the proposed amenities would be a public amphitheater.

Glen Stock continued, “Only heavy-duty vehicles will travel on Riverview Road. We are looking at doing milling and repaving and possibly installing a signal light because of all the kids in that area.”

Joseph Hanrahan said, “There is an off-site water main from Paterson Street that travels through Grant Street that will come to the site. The residents on Paterson Street will get their own water main. There can be a new system to improve water flow on Market Street with possible 12-inch water mains which will be separate for the sewer and water.”

City Planning Consultant Annie Hindenlang made a few remarks, “There is land that most people have not seen that can be used for amenities. The area must be secured. There’s over a mile of greenway for public access. We’re looking at green initiatives. We worked with the Office and Aging and the Department of Recreation to see what the seniors want. This is land that is behind Olive Street.”

Joseph Hanrahan then interjected, “The proposed amphitheater would be situated on 2,700 square feet.”

Hindenlang continued, “We’re working with Recreation, so they can use that land. New Jersey Transit is redoing the abatement.”

Stock added, “The remediation is going on this year and if approved, we can anticipate next year for completion.”

Councilman Fernando Irizarry questioned, “How is the property going to be capped?”

Glen Stock said, “We will be bringing the elevation up to 14 feet. We had used excavators to test the soil. There will be a cut-off wall. We buy brownfield properties and hire someone to clean it up. Buyers who are interested in that property approach us to buy it after the cleanup is done. We do the heavy lifting and vertical construction. Our storm water goes out to the water (into the Raritan River).

Irizarry then asked, “Will there be barriers along the train tracks?”

Hanrahan said, “Our building will be fenced in.”

Hindenlang then said, “Those (buyers) interested in the property will have to be vetted. It’s possible that those interested will request a PILOT. That’s how a lot of this stuff gets done.”

The next topic was the Water Stadium Lease. Law Director Peter King spoke first. He first spoke about renovations to other school properties where the Board of Education will do the upgrades.

Councilman Joel Pabon asked if these are individual leases.

King responded, “We use the Board of Education football field, and we reciprocate when they use our facilities.”

Pabon then brought up the fact that, “A lot of times we had to fight with the Board of Education to get things fixed. There’s a problem at the Wilentz School Park. A lot of times teachers will text us (the Council) about problems, asking who is responsible for repairs. We and the School Board should have names listed as who does repairs.”

King responded, “The Recreation Department contacts the school if there’s a problem and the school has to fix it.”

Director of the Department of Recreation Ken Ortiz came forward to address the issues at Water Stadium and the Wilentz School, “We leased these properties to them. We are taking back the lease from the Wilentz School. We can fix this along with our City Parks. We have a reciprocal lease with Water Stadium because we may need their facilities that we don’t have and vice-versa. It’s our responsibility to stay on top of the Board of Education. We will do monthly inspections (for safety issues).”

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez suggested, “The Board of Education has the money to make repairs and most of that money comes from the State. Make sure we don’t open up a can of worms.”

Pabon made further comments. He spoke about the Lucey Center (149 William St.). “That gets blamed for a lot of problems. There’s a school close by. There is a wide-open space on Washington Street which would be a win-win for the school and the City.”

Council President William Petrick suggested, “We should write into an agreement if we repair something that belongs to the BOE, then the BOE should pay for it.”

Ortiz went on to speak about the new Youth Center, “It opened up this past summer. Perth Amboy has over 20,000 people under the age of 24. The Center is located on Brighton Avenue. The Youth who attend want to be engaged and we have many clubs to help them. We plan to have trips such as Dorney Park. We can refer them to other resources in and out of the City. We also have a Youth Alliance Group who have their own Board of Directors. They also have one adult advisor. Tennis and basketball courts will be utilized, and we have a woman who helps us out at no cost. We want to expose people to all different kinds of careers.”

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez suggested that the Department of Recreation should take over the building on New Brunswick Avenue. “It would help so much for our youth. You help us so much. You should do a workshop on suicide prevention.”

Ordinance No. 1 First Reading: “ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNMENT” (Ordinance No. 1 – 72 and Amendments) adopted July 28, 1972 also known as Chapter 4 ET SEQ of the Code of the City of Perth Amboy regarding residency.

Irizarry wanted to know, “Who is responsible to make sure this ordinance is followed?”

Gonzalez then added, “Why was it changed? It was once an employee had to live here 10 years. General employees should live in town.”

Pabon questioned, “Why do we have this ordinance in place?”

Council President Bill Petrick said, “It would strengthen our community if City Employees live here. Let’s table this. The State law exempts the police.”

There were also questions about Ordinance No. 3 First Reading: “STREETS AND SIDEWALKS” adopted March 23, 2011 regarding Streets excavation. Director of Code Enforcement Jamie Rios came up to discuss this. “This is an add-on to the existing ordinance. A performance bond will have to be put in place. The City Engineer did the research. We put no digging in the wintertime except for emergencies.”

City Engineer Jeff Rauch came up to speak, “There’s a 5-year moratorium on roads. If the utility company has to reopen before the 5 years are up, they will have to repave curb to curb restoration.

Councilman Pabon questioned if the utility companies will honor this.

Rios responded, “We sat down with them (the utility companies).”

Rauch then added, “This gives us enforcement power to shut them down.”

Irizarry then requested that they put in the ordinance that the City Engineer and Code Enforcement can shut the work down.

Rios then stated, “We issue the permit.”

Rauch added, “There are 2 more years of work to be done. We talked to the utility companies about our concerns and safety issues.”

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez requested that Representatives from Harbortown come up to speak about proposed changes to their plans. This was in reference to Ordinance No. 4 “ZONING AND LAND DEVELOPMENT” (Ordinance No. 6/83 – 93 as amended) adopted December 2, 1975 re: R-M Residential Zones.

Those who spoke were: Attorney Stephen Barcan from Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer Law Firm, and Harbortown Developer Jack Halpern. They expressed their concerns that the market for retail doesn’t exist. Halpern began, “We would like to build less commercial and build new Senior Housing to replace the nonresidential.”

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez then remarked that  Harbortown is nowhere where he thought it would be when it was originally presented. He questioned if they will eliminate the basketball court.

Halpern responded, “It will remain. There’s a national crisis and people are not going to stores. If we build a big supermarket at the site, then we couldn’t bring in other amenities. No one is building offices or malls in New Jersey.”

The next person to speak was Bob Larson, one of the Habortown. He put up a map, and stated the blue area on the map represented industrial area. “It’s a percentage of 5% of the land. The red represents 5% commercial which is 135 acres.”

Halpern spoke again, “We are still considering a smaller supermarket.”

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez then remarked, “I don’t think most people who live in Harbortown shop in town. I think by you building in Harbortown it will help people stay in town.”

Halpern then stated, “We’re still planning to have retail and about 120 Senior Housing Units.”

Gonzalez then questioned, “Since there are a lot of children in Harbortown, where is the recreation for those kids?”

Halpern responded, “We have built a clubhouse and a basketball court. We have a pool and we made contributions to Rudyk Park. What Harbortown needs is shopping and Senior Housing. The units they have now are beautiful.”

Gonzalez responded, “The residents who live there say differently.”

Halpern told the Council, “We have to submit our final plans by August 2018 and it’s in your hands to get a Senior Switch (to have senior housing instead of having more retail).

Councilman Helmin Caba said he agreed with what Halpern was saying. “Amazon changed shopping. I’m concerned about the traffic flow in Harbortown.”

Halperan responded, “We can do a traffic study.”

Caba then mentioned about the traffic stop signs (leading to and from Harbortown from High Street), “They’re not cutting it.”

Halpern agreed, “There is traffic congestion at different intersections which is an issue. We have a preliminary sketch and we also have presented a $100,000 check for the new firehouse. I invite the Council to come see the plans for yourself.”

Mayor Diaz came up to speak stating, “We already have supermarkets in Perth Amboy. We need senior housing (with less stories) and not high rises. Another large supermarket would be bad for the mom & pop stores. The other bodegas and existing supermarkets said  they would not want a large supermarket built.”

Council President William Petrick thought otherwise, “I think a large supermarket in Harbortown would benefit seniors and residents living there and it would create jobs.”

Mayor Diaz responded, “We need a supermarket, but senior housing, especially for the handicapped is especially hard.”

Councilman Gonzalez said, “Our local people will not be able to afford the rent.”

Petrick suggested, “Can the Housing Department partner with Harbortown for the senior housing?”

Diaz responded, “Harbortown has worked with us in building a firehouse and recreational activities. We need to have more discussions, and it was not just my administration (doing the talking).”

Councilman Irizarry said, “We have a lot of age 55+ units right now.”

Pabon then questioned, “But is there any availability?”

Larson responded, “We can change the plan.”

Petrick stated, “The change will be on our next agenda.”

Irizarry then said, “I want to make sure I understand the percentage changes that were presented on the map. The 0% will change to 3% and not more than 10% which will remain the same.”

Halpern responded, “Yes.”

During the public portion, Resident Ken Balut touched on several subjects. He stated, “The Board of Ed gives the Y $300,000 a year for recreation. You (the Council) are giving the Elm Street Project (Gerdau Ameristeel Project) a PILOT, yet we are not sure what we’re getting on the last PILOT. Harbortown has lots of kids and two crossing guards. They have a lunch program in the summer that we pay for. Their swimming pool is small. Where are they building schools? There have been sexual complaints in different departments in town. We had a recent stabbing on Smith Street. There was a gas leak at a daycare center. The current B.A. gets paid $30,000 more than the former female B.A. who had more experience. Harbortown had secret negotiations regarding the Fire House.”

B.A. Adam Cruz wanted to correct a statement Balut made, “I am getting $30,000 less than the female Business Administrator.”

Resident Stanley Sierakowski said, “Have Halpern donate land for a school. We are about 5000 school chairs short. The municipal boards are not updated, and they have expired terms. You (the Council) make the laws and the Mayor appoints different classes (1,2,4) and the Council appoints the other classes. The Legislative Board is the governing body. You’re violating the state stature.”

The last speaker was Program Manager from Perth Amboy Housing Authority Lisett Lebron who stated, “We support what Gerdau Ameristeel wants to do with that property.” Lebron then said we surveyed the residents and asked them what they wanted. We like the idea of an amphitheater which will benefit the neighborhood.

At the regular Council Meeting 1/24/18: R-25-1/18 thru R-43-1/18 was moved by Councilman Fernando Irizarry and seconded by Councilman Helmin Caba.

The Council Meeting of 1/24/18 and Special Meeting of 1/29/18 will be reported in the 2/7/18 issue of the Amboy Guardian.

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