Eminent domain fight in Bayonne?The Jersey Journal, 10/15/05

By Ronald Leir

Bayonne may use its power of eminent domain to take title to a downtown parcel that has been approved for condo development and put a "pee-wee" soccer field there.

The City Council will discuss introducing ordinances at Wednesday's council meeting to begin condemnation proceedings for the property, on North Street off Avenue A, and to hire Hugh McGuire for real estate appraisal services in connection with the condemnation.

The ordinances are backed by Mayor Joseph V. Doria Jr.

City Law Director John Coffey II said the city has state Green Acres funds available to acquire the North Street land for recreational use.

"This is exactly what eminent domain is set up for under the state statute," Coffey said.

And, he noted, the statute requires the city to set aside an amount of money that it determines the property to be worth.

Caroline Esposito, a North Street neighbor of the site, said that she and other residents who spoke against the development "are very happy that Mayor Doria has chosen to go forward. We are totally supportive of this move."

Meanwhile, Rich Cirminello, a partner with Eric Cherchio in North Street Associates, LLC - which won city Zoning Board approval just last month to build a 28-unit condominium building on less than an acre of land on the north side of North Street - said he's "not surprised" by the city's move to take the land.

"This is not about getting a pee-wee soccer field - it's about votes," he said. "And if they end up taking our land, they'll be spending taxpayer money just to get those votes."

Cirminello, born and raised in Bayonne and a former sponsor of local children's soccer, said that contrary to residents' claims, the developers' traffic expert had projected that any additional traffic from the condos could be readily handled without hardship to the neighborhood.

In fact, the proposed children's soccer field would mean far more parking and traffic headaches in the neighborhood on game days, Cirminello said.

And, Cirminello said, if the city goes through with its plan to take the property, it will lose $225,000 in annual tax revenues that the condo project is expected to generate.

"This project took us four years of planning and we were going to devote a year to seeing it through so, if we lose it, I don't know what's going to happen to our business because we've made commitments to our office staff, estimators, local contractors and so forth," he said.

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