Township Council Reintroduces Edison Redevelopment Bond Ordinance

Residents question project during nearly two hours of public comment

[Editor's note: This story was updated March 7 at 3:30 a.m.]

An ordinance authorizing West Orange to issue $6.3 million in general obligation bonds to the developer of the Edison property on Main Street was reintroduced Tuesday night. The ordinance was approved on first reading in a 4-1 vote by the township council.

Councilman Joe Krakoviak dissented, voting "no" to introduce the ordinance and approve it on first reading.

The bond ordinance was but was , according to the administration. They said the township's supplemental debt statement was prepared but not on file in the township clerk's office prior to the Feb. 21 meeting.

"There are still, in my mind, a lot of issues that still need to be reviewed and considered and until those questions are answered, I don't think we should proceed," Krakoviak said.

Councilman Victor Cirilo, however, stood by the council's decision to pass the ordinance.

"What we're doing today is introducing the process, we're not approving anything," he said in response to Krakoviak. "My vote is really to continue the process forward … We have to make decisions, we cannot keep stalling."

Phase I of the redevelopment plan for the land surrounding the Thomas Edison lot on Main Street calls for 333 luxury apartment units for-rent and 18,500 square feet of retail space in the battery building. It will also include a 635-space parking garage and a Jitney service to both the Orange and South Orange New Jersey Transit train stations.

A dilapidated building currently sits on the property and has been an eyesore for years. Though there seems to be no opposition to revitalizing the area, the current redevelopment plan has sparked a tumult of questions.

A slew of residents spoke during Tuesday's public comment, hashing out a

"The people of West Orange are against it," said resident John Schmidt, adding that the project would only make current problems such as parking and traffic, worse.

Council president Patricia Spango said she also remained concerned over parking and traffic in the area and would like to see an updated traffic study.

She still expressed support for the project and attempted to ease residents' predominant worry over town-issued bonds.

"Prism is going to pay back 50 percent (of the bond)," Spango said. "The other 50 percent, West Orange is using for the curb-out infrastructure — no different than we do throughout the town. If this project never took place, we would eventually have to take care of this anyway."

While resident Kevin Malanga was sympathetic to the council, "irrespective of what decision you make, you're going to have people upset, disappointed," he insisted the council put the brakes on the redevelopment. "Let us have an open and honest discussion about this project before any decisions are made."

Councilman Sal Anderton reassured residents and clarified the finances of the redevelopment. Of the $6.3 million in issued bonds, $3.1 million of the debt service would be paid back by a special assessment on the property, he said.

In addition, the township will receive revenue generated from the project that will pay for the other half, "It doesn't hit your tax bill or my tax bill," Anderton said.

After addressing almost every residents' concern, Councilman Krakoviak concluded that the town needed to take a serious look at whether the project was in the best interest of the town.

"So much of this is a leap of faith, a lot of the stuff we're looking at are projections, and the question we have to figure out is, are those the right projections and are those conservative enough," he said. "We are really in knee-deep with the success of this project."

Krakoviak said that while the financial agreement with the developer won't technically raise taxes, "if project wasn't generating significant revenue, that's where it would hit us."

Resident Maritza Brown, however, was on board with the project and said the crowd in attendance was not representative of the whole township. "There are a lot of people in West Orange that want this project to happen."

Eugene Diaz, of Prism Capital Partners, LLC, the developer, was also on hand to answer questions. Responding to one resident, he said Prism would pay to relocate the public works building currently on the property. He estimated the cost of relocation to about $6.5 million.

"The township will be fully covered," he said.

The reintroduced bond ordinance and the ordinance outlining the financial agreement between the township and Prism Capital Partners, LLC, the developer, will be up for approval during the March 20 meeting.

Two additional resolutions approving a modification agreement and an infrastructure construction agreement will also be discussed.

The meeting will take place at at 7 p.m.

Continue to check Patch for more information on Tuesday's council meeting.

Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 02:50 AM
@ john anthony prignano: My friends "gave me" nothing. I was fully qualified , indeed more than qualified, for the two government positions I held and did an exemplary job in both. You can call it whatever you wish but, I can document and prove otherwise.
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 02:57 AM
@ Paul P: Previously asked and answered, moron...and you can confirm it through datauniverse if you'd like. I paid into the state pension for the 10.5 years I worked in government and withdrew my contributions and invested them privately when I left. One must now be a full-time employee to vest in the pension system and a Legislative Aide drawing a $1,000 stipend does not qualify. I do not now, nor will I ever, draw a state pension. Get your facts straight, will ya', Paulie?
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 02:59 AM
None. Prism is rehabilitating other housing units in the Township to satisfy any low income requirements accuring because of Edison Village,
Tom March 08, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Section 8 housing pays an amount for a 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom,3 bedroom... Apartments in West Orange. Does anyone know the max a allowance?
Paul P March 08, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Maybe you invested it in this project hence your over enthusiasm for something the majority of w o citizens is against, Unless you're an investor with Prism, a mckeon political supporter, one of the 30 or so construction unions and real estate pacs who are on record as donating to mckeons campaign, and a few unnamed people on the downtown alliance who have money invested in Prism and Organon, Then the overall majority of tax paying citizens who aren't going to making money on this project, are against it. I don't know about section 8, but I do know from other similar projects in the area, a 2 bedroom apt can house over 6 people, and one bedrooms have 4 or more.
john anthony prignano March 08, 2012 at 03:06 AM
There is a Gary R. Englert listed as Legislature / Legislative General Assembly Members Staff Services Division Director Managerial - Unit -M at an annual salary of $97,970 current as of the fourth quarter 2011. What the Hell is going on ??
john anthony prignano March 08, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Who is this Gary R. Englert employed as of the fourth quarter of 2011 at an annual salary of $97,970 ?? Is he a real person ? Is he a fictitious person ? Is he a real person who lives in a fictitious world ?? What the Hell is going on ??
Paul P March 08, 2012 at 03:09 AM
@ Tom Unlike the Rental Certificate Program, the Rental Voucher Program does not have a fixed rent ceiling. To determine the amount of housing assistance, the program has established a payment standard schedule. Households are given the opportunity to search for housing with a total housing cost that may be less than or greater than the payment standard. The household's portion of the monthly rent will depend upon the total housing cost of the dwelling unit that is chosen. For example, if you find housing that rents for less than the payment standard, you will pay less than 30 percent of your adjusted monthly income. If the rent is more than the payment standard, you will be required to pay more than 30 percent of your adjusted monthly income. Your minimum contribution towards rent and utilities, however, will be the greater of $25.00 or 10 percent of your total monthly income.
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 03:10 AM
@ john anthony prignano: It's simple, John Boy. either the website is wrong or you can't read. I'm not now, nor have I ever been, paid $97,970 as a Legislative Aide.
Tom March 08, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Section 8 housing is not low income and must be considered in all housing.
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 03:13 AM
@ Tom: Call Leigh Ann Zaolino at 973-066-2999 in the AM and she can tell you; she runs the program in Essex County.
Paul P March 08, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) - find your own place and use the voucher to pay for all or part of the rent.
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 03:17 AM
@ Paul P: Sorry to disappoint you but, no, I bought Berkshire-Hathaway stock. As to the rest of your rather specious allegations, put up or shut up. If you can prove malfeasance, misfeasance or criminality, take your proofs to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office of State Attorney General and make your case. I've done it and it works. Absent you doing that, all you're doing is blowing smoke.
Adam Kraemer March 08, 2012 at 03:37 AM
A few points: Just because state law allows a municipality to bond and abate a property for a real-estate developer does not mean the municipality has to do so nor does it make it a wise thing to do it. My point on 17 Maple Ave is the that a run down property can be any place in town. This one is in Rock Spring Estates just of Walker Road. The battery plant is downtown. 17 Maple Ave as is harms the values around it but could be improved by free-market force and not by government aid. Also, my point why should a town in which all get the same fire protection, police protection, trash pick up, library usage, public schools, and such have some property owners getting preferential taxation treatment while others don't enjoy that preference and thus will pay more.
Paul P March 08, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Except for Gary, Parisi, Mcartney, Borg, and the other left over Mckeon cheer leading squad members, the citizens of west orange are angry over the decade Mckeon indulged the residential developers and bulked up school populations while failing to increase commercial ratables,
Tom March 08, 2012 at 03:51 AM
How much will they be trying to rent the proposed Main street Apartments for? How much for a 1 bedroom? 2 bedroom? 3 bedroom?
john anthony prignano March 08, 2012 at 03:51 AM
The web site says Gary R. Englert , Legislature/ Legislative General Assembly Members Staff Services Division Director Managerial -Unit - M at an annual salary of $97 ,970 . Englert states very clearly that he ended his employment with the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs in 2010 .He very clearly states he is currently a Legislative Aide to Assemblyman John Mckeon . This{ current as of the fourth quarter 2011 } name { Gary R. Englert }and job description refers to neither a Legislative Aide nor someone employed by the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs . It clearly states :Legislature/ Legislative General Assembly Staff Services Division DIRECTOR MANAGERIAL- Unit- M at an annual salary of $97,970. There are no references whatsoever about The Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, and no mention whatsoever about Legislative Aides . What the Hell is happening here ???
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 03:54 AM
@ Adam Kraemer: Well, like it or not, the redevelopment ball was out in motion decades before you landed here and a general consensus reached that private interests alone would not lend themselves to renovating the property...and 50 years of inaction pretty much proved the point. Again, the idea is for Edison Village to serve as an anchor for a renaissance along the Main Street corridor with ancillary benefits accruing to the entire community. The battery factory is not a single home that would or could be improved without government intervention.
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 03:59 AM
@ Paul P: Your lack of historical perspective is showing again as John McKeon did no such thing during his tenure; in fact, he did quite the opposite in mitigating the impact of development wherever possible. FYI...the largest population of the West Orange Public Schools (+7,000 children) occurred circa 1970, long before the townhome/condo boom of the 1980s and 90s (before McKeon became Mayor, by the way), and that's a number we've yet to reach again. Ergo, there was already sufficient housing in town to domicile that many students 40 years ago; proof positive that condos/townhomes, etc. do not impact school populations the way single-family, detached housing does.
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 04:11 AM
@ Tom: The information is posted on the Township website at www.westorange.org and the Market Study can be viewed here: http://www.westorange.org/vertical/sites/%7B8A554F92-3545-4CD9-932E-F8D91F1C9B8B%7D/uploads/Retail_Market_Study_for_Edison_Lofts_Phase_1(1).pdf
Paul P March 08, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Gary's distortion of history is amusing. And the price to educate a student in 2012 is a tad more than the students of 1970. My historical perspective is correct and accurate. You only have to drive through town to see the Mcmansions and houses built on the tiniest piece of land, willingly handed variances by the previous Mayors administration. The records of the hearings of all the proposed variances are publicly available I think. People were outraged when say neighbor would want to build a house in his tiny backyard, and have the zoning board gladly hand them a variance. Old Indian road was a beautiful road, with a forest of beautiful historical trees, which were illegally clearcut by the a developer. And the zoning board? A small fine and a slap on the wrist. i CAN GO ON AND ON WITH PROOF , of how west orange was overburdened by the previous;s admins easy going attitude to variances for developers,
john anthony prignano March 08, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Let us conclude , as Charlie Sheen stated so eloquently; " Winning ! " tonight's battle of semantics by paraphrasing an old joke ; A politician asks someone " Would you be willing to repudiate and disavow everything you've ever believed in , in other words prostitute yourself , for $100,000 a year with benefits ? The man replies," That's quite a bit of money with benefits , plus the private sector's tanked , so yes , I would " The politician asks , " Would you do it for $1,000 a year ? The man yells ," WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK I AM ?" The politician replies," We've already established what you are , now we're just arguing price " WINNING !
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 04:48 AM
@ Paul P: The relative cost of educating students (1970 vs 2012) is irrelevant; the topic was student population and domiciles available to house them in the Township. Like it or not, Sparky, people are allowed to develop the land they own within the Master Plan adopted by the Township...and that includes single family homes on the relatively few vacant lots still available in town during McKeon's Administration (1998 and 2010). The only way to keep that from happening is to buy the land and preserve it as open space and, sicne it costs considerable money to do so, is easier said than done. Still, the McKeon Administration did that where and when possible and lessened the impact of development and obtained land/amenities for the public use in other instances; The Pointe at Crystal Lake and Bel Air, to name two. I don't recall any variances being needed (though I could be wrong) for the homes buit along Old Indian Road (during that time) but, I do recall one of the builders being santioned for cutting down more trees than were deemed necessary...and that the same thing happened at the development on Highwood Road and Mountain Avenue. So, please do go on as each time I challenge you, you fail to rise to the occassion as I'm sure you won't again.
Time4Dick2Go March 08, 2012 at 05:18 AM
Yeah, move on, we wouldn't want people to focus on a sweetheart deal for another politically connected developer. Is this property going to go on the regular tax rolls, or will the township be getting payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT)?
ConcernedAbout07052 March 08, 2012 at 02:44 PM
What role does NW Financial's Michael Hanley play in this redevelopment project? Mr. Hanley's bio states "Recent transactions include acting as lead banker on ....the $150 million ENCAP Golf Holdings LLC Project financing" An informative article on Patch.com has the headline - EnCap's bankruptcy filing risks $50M in N.J. funds Yikes! Please don't tell me that Mr. Hanely is some type of financial advisor on this redevelopment project - trying to convince residents to lend their credit line to this project.... http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/topstories/index.ssf/2008/07/encaps_bankruptcy_filing_risks.html
MP March 08, 2012 at 02:58 PM
WO has too many apartments and we can live with fewer apts. I am not sure whether the taxes paid on these buildings are commensurate with the services consumed by the dwellers. Apartments attract more low income people and bring in more problem. Can the township buy my house so that i can get out of here? Do people really think high income people will rent these "luxury" aprtments when they can go to a better a school district. Check out the NJ school report card for Washington and Edison schools. Nothing to write home about.
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 03:04 PM
ConcernedAbout07052: So far as I can see, this has nothing to do with West Orange at all.
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 03:10 PM
@ john anthony prignano: While I have no problem at all envisioning you in a Charlie Sheen like roid rage (as we've all seen it before, haven't we?) but, your complete lack of of documentable achievement in life suggests you should disabuse yourself of the idea that you're "WINNING" anything.
Karen Yi March 08, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Hi everyone, Let's keep the personal attacks off this thread. You can disagree, but do so respectfully. We don't want readers to be afraid to voice their opinions. So please, no personal attacks or insults. Stick to the issues. Otherwise, your comments will be deleted and your account will be suspended. Thanks, Karen Yi Local Editor, West Orange Patch
Cynthia Cumming March 08, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Karen, I for one take issue with 'Wohopeful' and his nasty comments about me, and I would appreciate your blocking his account.


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