Last night, before a filled to capacity hearing room, the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders dealt the Shipyard Associates a stunning setback. With one abstention, all Freeholders voted to uphold the decision made in February of 2012 by the Hudson County Planning Board to deny the application of the Shipyard Associates to build the Monarch Towers. In 2011, the Shipyard Associates proposed this 78-unit residential project on a Hudson River pier bordering a county road. The Freeholders held this hearing in response to a ruling by Superior Court Judge Nestle Rodriguez.
Mayor Zimmer and two City Council members were the first to speak followed by a long succession of Hoboken residents, all of whom were adamantly opposed to the Monarch Towers. The Freeholders got an earful about traffic woes and the dangers of building in the Coastal High Hazard Zone. At the start of the hearing, attorney Kevin Coakley argued the case for his client Shipyard Associates while attorneys representing the Hudson Tea Building Condo Association and the Hudson County Planning Board made the case to uphold the denial.
This was a far cry from an earlier era, in the 1980s and 1990s, when the founder of Applied Companies and Shipyard Associates, Joe Barry, held sway over the mayor and council. At that time, he was Hoboken’s biggest developer and landlord. His federally subsidized Section 8 tenants constituted his base of power. He could deliver their votes to the candidates he favored and pack hearing rooms in support of his development projects. Few politicians dared to oppose him. In 2004, a jury convicted Joe Barry of making $114,900 in cash payments to former County Executive Robert Janiszewski. Subsequently, the U.S. Attorney’s office forced him to resign from Applied Companies and Shipyard Associates.
His sons, David and Michael Barry, now run the companies. But unlike their father, they could muster no political or community support. In 2011, the Barry brothers applied for and received a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) waterfront permit to build the Monarch Towers.
After the public hearing concluded, Freeholder Bill O’Dea made a motion to take a vote that night, rather than waiting out the 30 days allowed by the judge to make a decision. After the motion passed, O’Dea moved to uphold the February 2012 denial by the Hudson County Planning Board. All of the Freeholders supported the motion save one who abstained. The case now will go back to Judge Rodriguez for a final ruling on the matter.
The on-going litigation on the Monarch Towers case includes appeals of the NJDEP waterfront permit approvals, challenges in federal court by the developer of the City of Hoboken’s amended flood ordinance and appeals of Judge Rodriguez’s decision to automatically approve the project
The conviction of Joe Barry was based on payments made to the County Executive in connection with $8.8 million state and federal grants and loans for the Shipyard project between 1996 and 2000.