The Bayonne Town Planning Council voted for the consistency of the redevelopment plan of the Gamal Est group at 35 avenue A with the city’s master plan.
The council voted 7-0, with Commissioner Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, who is also city council president and mayoral candidate, abstaining from the vote.
The redevelopment plan was presented to council for consistency review at its April 12 meeting by planner Suzanne Mack. Prior to that, the redevelopment plan has had a rocky journey over the past few months.
From legal battle to board approval
Redevelopment lawyer Glenn Kienz initially spoke out against Caschem’s original redevelopment plan when it was approved by the Planning Board in September 2021, citing height restrictions on the eastern part of the site. The original plan encompassed both the eastern part of the old Caschem site, as well as the western side of Avenue A.
Subsequently, the ordinance which would have approved the redevelopment plan was filed twice by the Town Hall of Bayonne at the request of the developer. Ehab “Jimmy” Gamal of the Gamal Group first requested that the ordinance be deferred at its October meeting. The board then postponed it again in November, as it sought to change the plan.
In December 2021, the board did not support Ashe-Nadrowski’s motion to open the order to a public hearing, triggering a since-dismissed lawsuit regarding the need for public hearings for the orders filed that don’t get a second. Thus, the ordinance and the original redevelopment plan subsequently died.
Then the other council members then voted to introduce a new redevelopment plan as an additional agenda item, with Ashe-Nadrowski abstaining, particularly for the eastern part of the site, the plan aforementioned redevelopment of the Gamal Est group. Since the city council presented the redevelopment plan instead of presenting it to the planning board for the first time, it only had to go back to the planning board to determine whether it was in line with the city’s master plan by opposition to a traditional endorsement.
This consistency review was scheduled for January 2022, but that meeting was canceled due to a lack of quorum after Planning Board Commissioners resigned and others were ill due to COVID-19. This was not on the February board agenda and the March board meeting was again canceled due to quorum issues. Finally, the consistency review was heard at the April board meeting.
Eastern part of the ancient site of Cashm
The site comprises two lots on the east side of Avenue A, with one lot between West 3rd Street and Gertrude Street, and Bayonne Bridge and Avenue A. The other lot is between Gertrude Street and 2nd west street, and the Bayonne bridge and the avenue UN.
According to Mack, the redevelopment plan allows for up to 325 units on the site. On the north lot, between West 3rd Street and Gertrude Street, the plan allows for a maximum of 200 units. And to the south, the plan allows for 125 units.
Both lots are capped at a height of six stories or the elevation of the bridge deck, whichever is lower, in accordance with the redevelopment plan. A maximum height of three and four stories was permitted on lots under the original redevelopment plan and original ordinance.
According to the redevelopment plan, permitted uses include: multi-family residential dwellings; neighborhood trade; retail and service; restaurants, restaurants, cafes, bars, taverns and microbreweries; open space; galleries; off-street parking; desks; shared workspace or co-working; shared living space or co-living; living-working space; or the mixed use of any combination of the aforementioned uses.
The facade on 2nd Street must be improved to include the construction of a sidewalk. No sidewalk cuts will be permitted on Avenue A and parking entrances must be located along adjacent side streets.
Floors should be raised one foot above the flood zone, according to the plan. According to Mack, a field of view study confirmed that those in the built structures would not be able to see inside the recently approved 1888 studios planned for the former Texaco site.
Regarding parking, the redevelopment plan imposes a ratio of spaces based on various factors. According to the plan, you need: 1 parking space per studio and one-bedroom unit, 1.25 spaces for each two-bedroom unit, 1.5 spaces for each three-bedroom unit; for non-residential uses, the ratio is 1 space for every 1,000 square feet; for restaurants, the ratio is 1 parking space for 4 seats; for educational use, the ratio is 1 parking space per staff; parking spaces for electric vehicles are required at the rate of 1 for 15 spaces; for multi-family buildings, the ratio is 2 places per building; for bicycle parking, the ratio is 0.5 per unit.
The town planner says the plan is coherent
“It’s really special,” Mack said. “It’s not just something, it’s the Bergen Point area, which has a rich history. It developed as an industrial area with Best Foods and Caschem, and all the other industries. The residential area around these properties housed the employees. Many people in this neighborhood walked to work. These were industries specific to Bayonne and which supported Bayonne. Unfortunately they have been reassigned, closed or moved out of the area. We are now faced with a vibrant residential neighborhood and the uses we can make of it to complement it while giving us development opportunities. »
Mack noted the proximity to other major redevelopments in the city along Avenue A, including the Amazon facility, the recently approved residential towers slated for the former A&P site, the even more recently film studio approved on the former Texaco site and the residential redevelopment project for the former Nacirema site, among others.
“I consider it an entertainment district,” Mack said of the site and surrounding area, including the movie studio. She said the area is intended to support the use of the former Texaco site, in accordance with the master plan.
“The movie studio is going to take up the entire square footage of the movie studio and the supporting uses there,” Mack said. “They won’t have housing and they won’t have hotels or retail businesses… Togus comes to build one of the country’s most exciting film studios in Bayonne. This project will be across the street, and people are coming and going to the film studio. Employees will want to live in the neighborhood. She noted that while typical zoning was primarily industrial and light commercial, this zoning overlay would allow for mixed-use residential and commercial buildings, which Gamal seeks to do.
According to Mack, this plan is consistent with the master plan by providing part of the purpose for residential units and mixed uses previously envisioned at the Texaco site. She said he was also supporting the redevelopment of the Texaco site as a film studio by providing housing and retail in the area.
Council worries about traffic
Some commissioners have raised concerns with Mack about parking, particularly Commissioner Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, who is also city council president and mayoral candidate. Ashe-Nadrowski asked if this site was specifically named in the master plan to have this density of units. Mack replied no, but that the nearby Texaco site, which is now planned for a film studio, was.
Ashe-Nadrowski said she’s worried about allowing residential here given the amount of traffic the movie studio will generate. She asked Mack if a traffic study had been done, to which Mack confirmed there was none.
“No, there wasn’t,” Mack said. “This plan was sent to us by the council, so this is the plan the council asked us to review.”
Mack said there was no plan for a traffic study, which she added usually comes when the claimant requests a final review of the site plan.
“The commissioning of the traffic study, for better or for worse, happens at the site plan enforcement level,” Mack said. “Tradition dictates that redevelopment plans are considered without a traffic study.”
According to Mack, the site will not produce traffic close to the rate of the movie studio.
“Traffic generation from these 320 units … is minimal compared to what we approved last week for the movie studio,” said Mack, who has the qualifications of a traffic engineer.
Commissioner Thomas Maiorano also asked about a traffic study, this time concerning the former Texaco site. Mack said there was, but it was old.
“It was approved before I was the planner,” Mack said. In response to questions from Ashe-Nadrowski, Mack said this study would not be relevant now.
Mack said this is only the third time there has been a consistency review in this way. And Tthis is only the eastern part of the site.
What is the next step for the west side of the Caschem site
Also at the hearing, Ashe-Nadrowski criticized the proposed 16-story warehouse for the west side of the former Caschem site not included in this plan. However, Gamal said these plans were for study and he was not asking for final review of the site plan for the high-rise cold storage. Some officials have previously speculated that it was a ploy to get approval for taller residential buildings on the east side, since Gamal has the right to build the warehouse within the original zoning. .
Mack said a separate redevelopment plan will be drawn up for the western part of the site, made easier now that the film studio has obtained final site plan approval.
“The west side will be managed by a separate plan in the future, if the council suggests it to the planning office,” Mack said. “Since 1888 Studios was completed, it makes so much more sense to be able to write a plan that complements that, instead of moving forward because we didn’t really know exactly what was going on there. Now we do. And we are very excited about it.
Before voting, Ashe-Nadrowski still opposed the plan: “If we allow them six stories…we can’t change their minds.
Regardless, the board, with the exception of Ashe-Nadrowski, voted in unison that the redevelopment plan be in line with the master plan, adding that a traffic study must be carried out to the site as a condition of approval. Now the city council, which postponed a public hearing and voted on the ordinance approving the Gamal East Group redevelopment plan in January, can vote on the ordinance at its regular meeting in April. If approved, Gamal may request a final site plan revision for the site in accordance with the plan.
The Bayonne municipal council will meet on April 20 at 7 p.m. in the council room of the town hall at 630 avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.
For updates on this story and others, visit www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.